What is grazing? It’s the habit of eating and drinking often throughout the day. First, I sip a coffee for an hour in the morning. Then I have a little snack in the kitchen mid-morning, then lunch, then an afternoon pick-me-up, then dinner, then I have a treat in front of the TV.
Every time we eat or drink anything other than water, we change the pH of our mouth. When I enjoy my mid-morning coffee, so do the natural bacteria in my mouth. As they digest the traces of coffee left on my teeth, they create an acid. This acid changes the pH in my mouth and makes it a more acidic environment. This acidic environment wears on my tooth enamel and creates cavities. Thankfully, our bodies work hard to neutralize that acid every time we eat or drink something. But it doesn’t happen instantly. Depending on the particular food or drink I ingested, it could take up to two hours for my saliva to neutralize that acid. If I eat or drink something else (besides water) before the two hours is up, the process starts all over again.
So if we eat often, even small snacks and drinks, we are never allowing the pH of our mouth to get back to neutral. That means our teeth are never resting. They are always fighting a battle with the acid in our mouths. Over time, the exposure to this acidic environment wears down the teeth.
What should we do about this? In an ideal world, we would limit when we eat or drink to meal times with one snack. This gives enough time in between meals for our mouths to neutralize the acid from the previous meal and gives our teeth a rest. Drinking water also helps. If you drink coffee, tea, or soda, drink a glass of water after to rinse your mouth. This can help your mouth neutralize the acid and also helps limit staining.
If you find that you are getting cavities, even though you are brushing and flossing faithfully, ask me about other possible causes. We can figure out how to keep your mouth (and you) as healthy as possible! Usually, there are easy lifestyle changes that can make a dramatic difference in your oral health.