Have you ever thought of your mouth as if it were a living, breathing version of a major city like Chicago?
Think about it … you've got beautiful ascending (and descending!) skyscrapers in there … some of us have bridges … or even fillings that resemble patched roadways.
And, of course, what's a city like Chicago without the elevated train? Braces, anyone?
Ah, and we can't forget its dashing purple taxi-cabs, right? Purple taxi cabs? What would that represent?
The Purple Lurker
You might not want to know it, but your mouth is teeming with hundreds of species of bacterium. Some help maintain a healthy mouth, while others don’t.
Those little purple taxi cabs in this fantasy world are the real-world Streptococcus mutans, or S. mutans, which under a microscope are purple. In your mouth, they're the cause of cavities and decay.
Sweeping Away S. Mutans
In order to keep that mouth of yours clean and in good working order, you've got to take care of it. And, a lot of that effort comes down to maintaining a proper diet.
You see, your mouth is really the key to the ignition of your body's digestive system. Its job is to take that giant sandwich you just ate and turn it into something the rest of your body can use.
So, before you even begin eating, the scent of food triggers your brain to produce the saliva and enzymes that will get this process underway.
Once you start eating, these products break down the larger cells of food into smaller cells that move their way down the esophagus to the next step in the digestive journey.
This is where the real fun starts!
For about thirty minutes after you've finished dining and your saliva production has slowed, the pH of your mouth sits at a level that allows S. mutans to begin their villainy.
The bacteria work quickly to enjoy that meal as much as you did, and start consuming the two things they love most: the remaining starch and sugar molecules left behind from your food.
The by-products of their digestion are a thin film of plaque that coats your teeth. The plaque provides a home for the bacteria, and lactic acid that erodes your tooth's enamel and can result in cavities. It's the acid that is the real culprit here.
None of us want any plaque and cavities in our mouths. Our responsibility, then, is to minimize the sugars S. mutans use to sustain themselves, and this is how we do it:
- Limit snacking, since nothing helps cavity formation more than feeding S. mutans every few minutes by eating candy all day long. Give your mouth a rest.
- Help repair and remineralize tooth enamel by eating foods that do just that. Meats and cheeses as well as nuts and milk are thought to help in this regard. Firm/crunchy fruits and vegetables are also good choices because of their high water content.
- Eat acidic foods, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, and lemons, as part of a larger meal to minimize the acid from them.
- Chew gum that contains xylitol after each meal to stimulate saliva flow, which is the best protector of teeth we possess.
- Brush at least twice a day, preferable after each meal or snack.
You are the mayor of your mouth! Keep it clean by eating a diet that supports good oral health!