Midnight Snackers: Mind Your Mouth 

By Hope Katz Gibbs

When he was a kid, Davis Burroughs, now 28, wasn’tallowed to eat after he brushed his teeth at night. 

“Of all the rules in the world, this one set by my parents was easy to follow — until I developed a midnight snacking habit,” admits the co-founder of The Regeneration Magazine, based in NYC, who recently became a patient of Dr. Stacie Calian. “I wondered, does the brush-after-dinner rule still apply to a late-night treat?”

Dr. Calian told him what researchers around the world have proven — don’t eat after dinner. 

Here’s why: Saliva flow is disrupted

Dr. Calian points to scientific adviser to the British Dental Association, Professor Damien Walmsley, who explains that saliva is needed to remove food debris from the mouth. 

“Since saliva tends to dry up at night, eating at night — when the mouth is driest and any leftover food remains in the mouth longer — accentuates the impact of consuming sugary and acidic food and drinks,” Walmsley says, referringto results of a six-year study by researchers at the University of Copenhagen.  

They examined medical records of 2,217 Danes, ages 30 to 60.  Of these 173, or 8%, were classified as nocturnal eaters — meaning they consumed a quarter or more of their daily calories after dinner, or would wake up in the middle of the night at least twice a week for a snack. 

By the end of the study, researchers found the nocturnal eaters lost more teeth than those who didn’t eat after hours — after factoring in age, diabetic status, body mass index, and consumption of sugars and carbs. 

The remedy: Brush your teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste

  • Brush10-20 minutes before eating breakfast

  • Midday brushing is not essential for most

  • Brush20-30 minutes after eating, or just before you sleep

  • Consume only water for at least an hour before the final brush of the day

The reason: The biology behind brushing rules 

  • Researchers explain those brushing rules are influenced by the time it takes for the normalization of the oral PH after food consumption. 

  • Brushing after a meal ensures that the introduction of food and liquids will not diminish the concentration of fluorideas it works its magicon the tooth surface. 

  • That’s because fluorideimpacts the oral microbes in our mouths, which feast on whatever we consume. 

  • Unfortunately, the excretion is highly acidic, which can gradually dissolve tooth enamel and lead to tooth decay (aka: cavities). 

The rub: Brushing alone may not do the trick

  • Once plaque has started to harden, it calcifies on the surface of your teeth.

  • When calcification has begun, no amount of brushing or flossing can repair it.

  • This takes the help of a dental hygienist using professional dental equipment.

The domino effect: The problem isn’t just tooth-deep 

  • As plaque begins to build up, your immune system treats it as an infection. 

  • It triggers the release of prostaglandis, which starts a process called lipid signaling. 

  • As opposed to a "positive" immune response, the healthy tissue that adhere the gums to the teeth are attacked and harmed.

  • This causes the formation of periodontal pockets, which can lead to gum recession andcolonization of foreign bacteria below the gum line along the tooth root.

  • This is how periodontal disease is born. 

The opportunity: Avoid being part of an oral epidemic

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in every two Americans adults aged 30 and over has periodontal disease — that’s 64.7 million American adults. In those 65 and older, prevalence rates rise to 70.1 percent.  

Dr. Lillian Bensley of the Washington State Department of Health, Office of Epidemiology, showed people with periodontal disease are 1.4 times more likely to have chronic conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and if not caught in pregnant women can lead to low birth weight babies. Additionally, those with bum gums are 1.5 times more likely to develop arthritis and liver disease. For additional information, read our blog entry: “The Gateway to Your Body’s Health: Your Mouth”

If you are concerned you have periodontal diseaseEase your mind with a free consultation from comprehensive general and cosmetic dentist Dr. Stacie Calian, founder of the Smile Design Dental Spa.