By Sara Knoll
Just a few weeks ago, we celebrated the holiday of Purim; a time of joy and happiness for the Jewish people. On Purim, we read the Megillat Esther (scroll of Esther), give charity to the poor, have a religiously obligated meal, and give and receive mishloach manot (gifts of food). According to our tradition, one needs to give at least two foods different to one person in order to fulfill the obligation. While healthy foods could be given in order to fulfill this commandment, many times this commandment involves the giving and receiving of lots of candy and other sweets.
While candy, such as lollipops, chocolates, taffies, cookies and cakes are delicious treats to eat, eating too many of these sugary sweets can lead to the formation of tooth cavities. According to Mayo Clinic, a cavity, also known as tooth decay or caries, can be caused by a host of different factors that lead to the damage of tooth enamel, which creates tiny holes in the tooth. Some of these factors include the presence of oral bacteria that shouldn’t be present in the mouth, eating and drinking sugary foods and drinks, or improper oral hygiene and tooth brushing. Foods, like candy, cakes and cookies, are sugary and chewy and tend to stick to teeth for an extended period of time which can lead to more severe dental caries.
If a person doesn’t visit their dentist every six months, and brush and floss properly, cavities can go unnoticed for months. This can lead to severe damage in the deeper levels of the tooth, which can lead to tooth pain, infection and total tooth loss. Some symptoms of cavity presence include toothache without a cause, pain upon occlusion, varying levels of pain when eating or drinking a sweet, hot or cold beverage, visible holes in a tooth, and black, white or brown staining on tooth surfaces.
While many people get cavities, there are certain risk factors that could increase the chances of developing a cavity. One of these factors is that there are certain foods and beverages that will cause greater tooth decay because they are not washed away by saliva as easily as other foods. Some of these foods include milk, ice cream, cake and other sugary substances.
Another risk factor is the location on the tooth where the caries are located. Dental caries happen most often in the molars and premolars in the back of a person’s mouth. This is due to the fact that these teeth have many grooves and pits where food particles can accumulate, and because they are found in the back of the mouth, it may be difficult to access and remove the caries-causing agents. A protective coating called a sealant, can be applied to the occlusal and chewing surfaces of the posterior teeth. Like its name suggests, dental sealants seal the grooves and pits in molar and premolar teeth where caries causing food particles likely remain. This allows the tooth’s enamel to be protected from plaque buildup and decay. According to the
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all school-age children (who also happen to be the ones mainly eating the sugary sweets from the mishloach manot) are recommended to get sealants to help prevent decay. It is better to prevent decay in childhood to limit the effect on the future dental landscape.
One more factor is improper oral hygiene. It is imperative that each person, adult and child, brush twice a day, and brush again after consuming sugary snacks. The best kinds of toothpaste contain the chemical fluoride which is a naturally occurring mineral that can be found in the Earth’s crust. According to Colgate, fluoride is a protective agent against bacteria that cause the demineralization and thereby weakening of tooth enamel. Therefore, drinking water that contains fluoride and using fluoride toothpaste can help protect against the buildup of dental caries.
While one should typically try to stay away from consuming too many sugar containing foods, moderation is key. As long as you brush your teeth after consuming these sugary sweets and see your dentists for checkups, you can enjoy the holiday without worrying too much about your oral health.