There are many ways to beat the heat in the summer: spending a little time in the pool, making the most of your air-conditioning or enjoying a few cold treats. Though they may be refreshing, some summer snacks may not be the best for your teeth. Here are a few ways cold treats may be harming your oral health even though they’re helping you cool off. Plus, learn how you can help offset the damage.
The problem: Milkshakes and smoothies cause tooth sensitivity
Nothing tastes better than slurping a cold, creamy milkshake when the mercury rises – and not much feels worse than the sharp pain you sometimes get in your teeth immediately afterward. Cold sensitivity in teeth is usually caused by exposed dentin (the inner layer of the tooth) or exposed root surfaces. Enamel usually covers dentin, but when this enamel wears away or decays, the dentin is left vulnerable to things such as the startling cold of ice cream. Exposed root surfaces can result from too vigorous brushing or from periodontal (gum) disease. Tooth sensitivity can also be caused by tooth grinding, whitening toothpastes and bleaching treatments. A dentist, like Dr. Tamara Robison of Cosmic Smiles for Kids in Naples and Marco Island, should be able to help you determine the cause of any tooth sensitivity. Fairly simple fixes include using a mouthguard to prevent nighttime grinding, or cutting back on whitening treatments. Desensitizing toothpastes and mouthwashes may be recommended as well. If the problem is caused by tooth decay or gum disease, fillings and periodontal treatments could be required.
The problem: Sodas erode tooth enamel
Few are immune to the allure of a sweet, ice-cold fizzy drink. The havoc it may wreak on your teeth and body, however, is not worth it, especially when there are substitutes, such as flavored water, that taste great and quench your thirst much more effectively. Why is soda so bad? Well, not only are a soda’s fructose and glucose contents harmful, but the acids also eat away at enamel starting just 20 minutes after your first sip. In addition, the extra calories provide no nutritional value, and scientists believe that certain acids found in soda make it harder for your body to process calcium, putting your bones at risk, as well as your teeth. Here’s the kicker: Many drinks also have a lot of caffeine that, combined with carbonation, work to cause dehydration. So that “thirst-quenching” feeling you get while drinking a cold soft drink won’t last long.
The problem: Sugary ice creams can cause tooth decay
Dairy products, such as ice cream, are good sources of calcium, which can be great for your teeth and bones. The problem with most ice cream, however, is that it’s made with a lot of tooth-decay-causing sugar. (That’s what makes it so sticky when it melts.) Your best bet is sugar-free or low-sugar ice cream. If you do opt for the full-sugar version, there are a few ways to lessen the damage it does to your teeth:
- Enjoying ice cream at the end of a meal is better than eating it alone as a snack. Eating other foods increases saliva production, so ice cream as dessert means the excess saliva from those other foods will help food particles get rinsed out of the mouth faster. Excess saliva also helps neutralize acid production.
- Brush teeth immediately afterward or at least rinse with water or mouthwash to get some of the sticky sugars dislodged from the enamel.
- Avoid ice creams with sticky add-ins such as caramel or toffee. They cling to teeth more fiercely than other foods and are harder to rinse off, especially without a toothbrush.
The problem: Cold foods and drinks cause brain freeze
We’ve all experienced the acute stabbing feeling you get in your brain when you’ve scarfed down something cold too fast. In a 2012 study, scientists discovered that brain freeze is likely caused by an abrupt increase in blood flow to an artery in the brain that supplies oxygen to the frontal lobes. This happens in response to sudden cold stimuli (such as ice cream or even a cold drink). The sharp pain disappears when the artery constricts again. Researchers theorize that it’s the brain’s attempt to protect itself from getting too cold, and the artery constricting may be a way to bring the resulting brain pressure back down to normal levels.
Summer time in Naples, Florida is scorching hot, but keep your cool, there are plenty of alternatives to beating the heat. “Drink lots of water!
“Hydration isn’t just good for your body,” Says Dr. Robison, “It is also essential for keeping your mouth from getting dry, which can result in tooth decay or infections.”
Take the time to replace sugary Popsicles with low sugar alternatives, like home made juice pops using low sugar juice and yogurts. Keep sodas and sugary drinks to a minimum, and maybe even replace them with low sugar juices mixed with carbonated water if the bubbly concoction is what you crave. Keep a travel toothbrush on you for those unexpected stops to the ice cream shop or carnival treats. No matter what your sweet tooth is craving, be sure to rinse with water or brush after every confection to keep your smile healthy!