It’s Midnight, and Your Teeth Are Terrified

Dentist in 50226 area code

Studies link late-night snacking to tooth loss.

It happens every night at the stroke of midnight, starting with a fearsome grumble that intensifies into an undeniable growl. It doesn’t care that you’ve set your alarm for 5:30 a.m., nor does it remember that you fed it just hours before slipping into your pajamas. It’s your stomach, and it’s not having any of this “sleep” business…

Does this sound familiar? Late-night snacking is fairly common, but most people don’t understand the unhealthy relationship between midnight munching and tooth loss. In 2010, Danish researchers published the results of an intensive six-year study of more than 2,000 adults. Of the participants, 8% reported frequent midnight snacking. At the conclusion of the study, the “nocturnal eaters” were significantly more likely to have lost one or more teeth. Dr. Ryan Hussong, a dentist in the 50226 area, encourages you to consider your oral health before sneaking that snack.

There’s a Reason We Brush at Bedtime

If you’re like most Americans, your pre-bedtime routine has a special place for brushing and flossing. After all, it’s what we’ve been taught to do since childhood. Have you ever stopped to consider why nighttime is the right time for oral hygiene? It all starts with saliva, your body’s natural mouthwash. It neutralizes acids, strengthens tooth enamel, and flushes away bits of bacteria and leftover food. Without it, plaque and bacteria thrive in your mouth. While you sleep, your salivary glands produce little or no saliva. You can imagine how much damage these nasty substances can do in a full eight hours of sleep.

“Mmm, Celery Sticks at Midnight,” Said No One Ever

It’s not just a matter of saliva, either. Think about the traditional midnight fridge fare. When you creep down the stairs and open the refrigerator door, which munchies catch your eye? Cold, crisp veggies? Crunchy apple slices? Try again. You’re far more likely to end up reaching for leftover pizza, a tantalizing piece of cake, or a glob of chocolate pudding. Not once will you stop to consider that sugary, starchy foods are notorious for causing tooth decay. Bacteria in your mouth love starch and sugar, which they quickly convert into sticky, yellow plaque. Acids attack your tooth enamel, increasing your vulnerability to cavities, gum disease, and tooth loss.

Snack Responsibly, Clean Diligently

If you do give in to your cravings, Dr. Hussong recommends doing so responsibly and protecting your teeth from decay:

  • Brush and floss before returning to bed
  • Avoid highly acidic foods and juices, such as citrus fruits
  • Steer clear of starches, such as breads, cookies, and pasta
  • Opt for satisfying, crunchy natural foods

If you experience strong hunger on most nights, your daily diet may not be providing adequate nutritional value for your body. Speaking with a nutritionist will enable you to make healthy decisions about what to eat and when to eat it.

Could your diet and lifestyle increase your risk of tooth loss? To schedule an appointment with Dr. Ryan Hussong, contact Cornerstone Dental at 515-984-6001. We offer general and preventive dentistry for the whole family, including patients in 50226, Polk City, Ankeny, Ames, Grimes, Des Moines, and Urbandale. For more healthy living and oral care tips, follow us on Facebook!

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