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Plaque, that sticky film of food and bacteria that's constantly forming on your teeth, contributes to the formation of cavities, periodontal (gum) disease and bad breath. This is hazardous not only to your oral health, but to your overall health as well, as many recent studies have shown. That's why it's vital that you work to minimize the plaque that exists in your mouth. As you're trying to minimize plaque, you need to think about not only what you eat, but about how you eat!

How often you eat: Each time you eat a carbohydrate-containing food, acids are released. The more frequently carbohydrates are consumed, the more chances acid has to damage your teeth.Characteristics of the food: Some foods, like crackers and potato chips, stick to grooves in the teeth. Raisins, fruit rolls and fruit snacks and gummy candies are also notorious tooth-stickers.

The length of time that food remains in the mouth: Foods that are slow to dissolve, such as cookies and granola bars, give acids more time to work on destroying tooth enamel.Whether or not the food is eaten as part of a meal: Sticky or high-carbohydrate foods create less acid when they are eaten as part of a meal. That's because saliva production increases at mealtime, and saliva not only rinses away food particles, but also neutralizes acid and helps to re-mineralize teeth. Beverages also help rinse away food particles. After you eat, it's important to clean food debris off your teeth as best you can. Ideally, this means to clean them by flossing or brushing.