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Summer Smiles: How to Indulge in Sweet Treats Without the Cavities

Summer Smiles: How to Indulge in Sweet Treats Without the Cavities

Summer Smiles: How to Indulge in Sweet Treats Without the Cavities
Dr. Jones
May 2, 2024

Summer treats like ice cream cones, popsicles, banana splits, and s’mores are all appealing. But, these same tasty treats can damage your teeth. 

Sugary treats feed bacteria that attack your tooth enamel. The specific name for this bacteria is Streptococcus mutans. These acidic bacteria work their way into the enamel and can create holes that expose the dentin. That’s where cavities form. 

Left untreated, a cavity will grow and work its way to the root where an abscess can form. That painful condition may lead to a tooth extraction or a root canal. Take steps to prevent cavities from forming and you avoid the discomfort and cost of expensive dental procedures. Our tips can help keep your teeth healthy while enjoying summer treats.

Drink Water and Rinse Your Mouth

After a sugary treat, rinse your mouth. Your saliva’s job is to rinse out the mouth and water down the bacteria. If you rinse your mouth out and drink water, you help with this process. Saliva and water work together to protect your teeth. Fluoride-rich water is even better.

If you’re on well water, you’re probably not getting a lot of fluoride. Fluoride is more common in city water as it’s added during the water treatment process. A prescription for fluoride is often recommended for kids. Adults can get fluoride through boxed or bottled water and some foods. Calcium is equally important. Make sure you have a diet rich in dairy products.

Opt for Healthier Sweet Treats

Ice cream and related treats are delicious, but you can have a sweet treat while also helping protect your teeth. Make your own ice cream by pureeing fresh strawberries with some frozen banana pieces and plain (unsweetened) yogurt. You avoid added sugar and yogurt is rich in calcium.

Make sorbet with frozen unsweetened applesauce cubes and fresh blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. Put them in a food processor or blender and add just enough water, if necessary, to make a smooth sorbet.

If you want something chocolatey, make a more tooth-friendly version of a fudgsicle. Blend 16 ounces of melted dark chocolate and a pound of silken tofu. Use a chocolate that’s sweetened with stevia rather than sugar. Add a splash of vanilla and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into popsicle molds and add the stick. Freeze until solid.

Chew a Xylitol Gum After a Sweet Treat

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol derived from things like birch bark and fruits and vegetables like cauliflower, pumpkins, and strawberries. The FDA approved its use in 1963. Since then, studies have found that regular consumption of xylitol, 5 to 10 grams per day, lowers the incidence of tooth decay by 30% to 80%.  It’s most effective when people chew gum or consume products with xylitol at least three times per day and up to five times per day.

Xylitol is found in many gums, including Epic, Lotte, Spry, and Zellie’s. You can also purchase it as a sweetener in drops or powder for your drinks and baked goods. 

Stop Drinking Sugary Drinks

Between meals, skip sugary drinks. If you want iced tea, make green or black tea and sweeten it with xylitol or stevia drops. Drink water that has frozen strawberries in place of ice cubes if you dislike plain water. Soda, sweet tea, sports drinks, lemonades, and many frozen coffee and tea drinks are high in sugar. 

Limit Sweet Treats

While you’re enjoying summer’s treats, make sure you have them in moderation. If the ice cream truck makes a pass through your neighborhood each day, stick to one treat per week. If you live near an ice cream shop, make it a weekly treat rather than a daily one. 

The rest of the time, you and your kids can enjoy healthier sweet treats like apple slices dipped in unsweetened almond butter or watermelon cubes. Remember to follow those snacks and desserts with a glass of water.

Don’t Rush to Brush

Many people rush to brush their teeth right after eating. As hard as it is to avoid that habit, it’s better to wait for time to pass and for the enamel to harden again. Drink water if you want to rinse your mouth, but don’t rush to brush.

After eating, the acids weaken the enamel a little bit. This means that brushing soft enamel can weaken the tooth’s protective surface over time. Instead of brushing right away, wait an hour or two. Then, brush and floss as you normally would. Choose a toothpaste that helps restore enamel, such as Sensodyne Pronamel Intensive Enamel Repair, 3M Clinpro, or Crest Pro-Health Advanced. 

Ask your dentist for advice. There may be prescription products that will help more than standard products. 

Invest in a Water Flosser

Flossing is an important step in preventing tooth decay. It gets food particles from between the teeth. A water flosser blasts a spray of water in hard-to-reach areas like between the teeth and behind your back molar.

In addition to traditional floss, consider getting a water flosser and using that once a day. You can brush your teeth and use the water flosser in the morning and traditional floss at night. Some people prefer to use the water flosser before brushing to remove larger food particles and then follow up with dental floss.

Ask About Sealants

Ask your dentist about dental sealants. Sealants form a protective coating that helps reduce the chances of cavities. Sealants can fill deep grooves on adult teeth, as long as you don’t already have a filling on that tooth. Insurance doesn’t often cover sealants in adults, but it’s often worthwhile if you have grooves on back molars and want to avoid cavities.

Go For Regular Cleanings and Exams

The most important part of avoiding cavities is to go for regular dental exams. Twice a year is the norm, but some people need to go more often. Find out how often dental cleanings and exams are covered. Some companies provide up to four cleanings per year. Make sure you see a dentist and get onto a regular schedule of cleanings and exams.

If you have been avoiding the dentist due to dental anxiety, you’re not alone. Jody Jones DDS specializes in creating a spa-like dental experience, and mild sedatives are available if you cannot get through a dental procedure without something to help ease the anxiety you experience. Sedation dentistry is available, so don’t let fear keep you from having healthy teeth and gums. Reach us online or call today.