While you’re at work, your teeth are probably the furthest things from your mind. Most of us pay attention to our teeth before we go to work, and then again before we go to sleep at night. However, meals and snacks consumed away from home should be addressed as well.
Tooth decay and gum disease are caused by bacteria and the faster and more frequently you can reduce the levels of bacteria around your teeth and gums, and the foods they metabolize, the better for your general oral health. The best and most obvious solution is to floss daily and brush after meals and snacks. That, however, is not always available.
There is window of about 20 minutes from the time we are totally finished with a meal, snack, or sugary beverage that the acidity of what we eat or drink lowers the pH levels in our mouth. Bacteria metabolize the food and drink around our teeth and create acid of their own, which leads to the loss of minerals from our teeth. This process progresses until a cavity is formed.
There are several effective ways to quickly assist your bodies defense mechanisms against bacteria and the problems they cause.
Chew Gum Chewing sugarless gum after consuming food or drink accelerates the production and movement of saliva. Saliva is a neutral pH and helps dilute and ease away sugar and bacteria and the acid they produce. Gum can help close the window of elevated oral acidity in as little as 5 minutes. Your gum should be sugarless.
Drink and Swish Water Water, and its neutral pH, dilute sugar and help remove food debris that can contribute to elevated oral pH. A very quick and easy way to minimize the window of time bacteria can cause damage is to swish water around in your mouth.
Frequency and Total Time Consuming Food The window of damage starts when the food or beverage is completely finished, but is an ongoing issue the whole time you are eating or drinking as well. As an example if it takes you five minutes to drink some juice the window of damage would be approximately 25 minute. But if you sip a soda or eat some candy over the course of an hour the window is 80 minutes. If it takes you a long time to consume your food or beverage, or are constantly snacking or sipping at a sugary drink the window of damage can be substantially higher.
Ideally one minimizes both the frequency and duration of time teeth are susceptible to decay by brushing, chewing sugarless gum or swishing with water when finished.