The late night snack – it’s an American tradition, right? That harmless scoop of ice cream or bowl of cereal in the middle of the night isn’t hurting anyone, is it? Unfortunately, a seven-year study shows that late night snacking is directly related to tooth loss.
Nocturnal eaters fall into two groups: 1) those whose late night bite is one-fourth of their daily calorie intake and 2) someone who raids the fridge at least once a week.
We know that acid-loving decay-causing bacteria dine on food particles that are not brushed off the teeth. The bacteria’s digestive system produces more acids that dissolve minerals in tooth enamel. Without healthy enamel, decay and tooth loss follow. Plaque biofilm (sticky bacterial film) causes gingivitis (gum disease) that can advance into serious gum disease (periodontitis), inflammation and tooth loss.
So, why is late night eating worse than eating any other time of day? Saliva flow decreases while you sleep, so, the late night food particles on your teeth provide bacteria with a late night snack of their own. Saliva helps protect your teeth by weakening decay-causing acids and building up enamel.
For some people, eating can trigger acid reflux symptoms making the acid attack on teeth even worse during the night.
However, if you just can’t go to bed hungry, brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste before snacking and rinse your mouth with water afterward.Then wait twenty minutes after snacking for your awakened saliva to re-harden your enamel before snuggling back under those covers.