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The American Dental Association’s recommendations for healthy teeth are to brush twice a day and floss once a day. These are standard habits for most people and help protect against cavities. However, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey published by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research in 2004 shows that 92% of adults in the United States have cavities in their permanent teeth. With this in mind, there is more that affects dental health than how often we are brushing.

The phrase you are what you eat is a statement that hits close to home here. What we eat directly affectsdental health. According to the Yale School of Medicine, the cells in our mouths can be negatively affected by sugary foods, just like the rest of the body. Eating acidic foods damages enamel and reduces the ability of your teeth to fight decay and infection. An overall unhealthy diet impedes the body’s ability to fight off infection, including in your mouth. The acids produced after eating sugary or acidic food will remain in the mouth for up to 20 many minutes after consumption, working against your teeth the whole time.

Another helpful tip is that after you do eat something sugary or otherwise unhealthy, do not brush immediately afterwards. A specialist from New York University College of Dentistry, Dr. Miriam Robbins, says this is because the acid produced by eating such food remains in your mouth for 20 many minutes afterwards and is breaking down enamel during that time. Brushing your teeth could further damage the enamel that is being attacked. Waiting for about 40 minutes for the acid to reduce will make a brushing much more effective.

There are a few common foods that can fight off cavities. A professor at New York University College of Dentistry recommends cheese and dairy products because they help build strong teeth and actually contain acid neutralizers. Vegetables are also a safe route to go, because there are limited sugars and many of them will naturally clean the teeth and cause an increase in saliva production, which is the body’s way of cleaning the teeth on its own.