It’s 11 pm and, while you should be in bed, you’re standing in front of the fridge trying to decide a snack of choice before calling it a night. You know this isn’t the best life choice for your waistline, but did you know that it’s also bad for your oral health – especially your braces. Your orthodontic treatment increases the potential to leave food behind on the teeth after eating.
Late Night Snacking Can Lead to Tooth Loss
A 2010 study in Denmark discovered a relationship between midnight snacking and tooth loss. Over a six-year period, a group of over 2,000 adults (8% labeled “nocturnal eaters”) were found to have significantly increased their chances of tooth loss from repeated midnight snacking.
Nocturnal eaters were classified as those who eat a quarter or more of their daily calories after dinner several times per week. This also includes those who wake up in the middle of the night to eat a snack.
Less Saliva = Increased Bacteria
One theory researchers had about the relationship between tooth loss and late-night snacking is that it is due to a lack of saliva production. The body produces less saliva at night – meaning those who eat late won’t have enough saliva to remove food debris that is left on the teeth. Braces make the problem worse as food can easily get stuck between brackets and wires.
When you do have a late night craving, odds are the foods you often choose are high in sugar and starches. Sugar sticks to your teeth, becoming a feeding ground for bacteria. Bacteria eat the sugar left on your teeth and deposit acid directly onto the enamel, causing tooth decay if left for long periods of time.
What You Can Do
- Brush your teeth after dinner. You are less likely to want to eat again after already cleaning your teeth.
- Try not eating or drinking anything (with the exception of water) up to one hour before bed.
- When you’ve just gotta have a snack, reach for something healthier than your normal choice. For example, choose an apple instead of potato chips.
Come See Us!
At Dennis J Flanagan DDS MS, we want to make sure you get the most out of your orthodontic treatment. If you have questions about how your eating habits are affecting your progress, contact us to schedule an appointment. We’ll examine your current progress and provide suggestions to help you curb your cravings or make smarter choices when they do come up. Our goal is to help maintain your healthy, beautiful smile!