Why Are Midnight Snacks Bad for Your Oral Health?


Are you one to give into late-night snack cravings? Do you find yourself looking through the fridge before heading to bed or even getting up at night because you’ve suddenly gotten the urge to eat a few leftovers? Maybe you’re just getting back from a late night out and feel like a few snacks before you go to sleep. In reality, midnight snacks are some of the worst for your teeth and here’s why:

Midnight Snacks Tend to be Less-Than-Healthy

Chances are, you’re probably not snacking on carrot sticks, sharp cheddar cheese, or a few almonds. Normally those snack cravings tend to be high in processed carbs, sugar, or artificial sweeteners. Like chips, pizza, cookies, etc.

Carbohydrates and sugars essentially feed oral plaque biofilm, giving them what they need to secrete acids and more bacteria inside of your mouth. That means more plaque. And plaque triggers both cavities and gingivitis (which can ultimately evolve into periodontal disease.)

Your Saliva Glands Start to Shut Down

As we get tired and start to fall asleep, our saliva glands start to shut down for the day. That means a dryer mouth. Saliva is a natural buffer around your teeth, limiting the impact of acids, sugars, and bacteria. But when there’s less saliva or someone has chronic dry mouth (“xerostomia”) they are at an immediately higher risk for tooth decay.

Midnight snacking combines higher bacteria with dryer teeth. It essentially creates the perfect storm for tooth decay or enamel erosion. That’s why people with chronic xerostomia tend to suffer from rampant cavities throughout their mouth.

If you’re snacking right before bed and your saliva isn’t there to help lubricate your teeth or “rinse” away leftover debris, your food/drink is going to be even that more damaging to your teeth than if you enjoyed it earlier in the day.

You’re Probably Going Straight to Bed Afterward

Are you planning on brushing and flossing your teeth between your snack and when your head hits the pillow? Probably not. Most people grab what they’re going to eat and go straight back to bed. So whatever sweets or sticky treats you chewed on are going to stay stuck in the chewing surfaces or between teeth, where cavities tend to be more likely.

A Healthier Alternative

Breaking a midnight snacking habit can be tough without the right strategy. Here are a few effective tips to get your late night indulgences back under control:

Drink more water in the evening hours.

A glass of water can help trick your stomach into feeling full. Often times our hunger sensations are actually a side-effect of being dehydrated. Drinking a tall glass of water (or two) before you start winding down for the evening will help you feel hydrated and less likely to wake up hungry in the middle of the night. In fact, drinking more water throughout the day, period, can help you cut back on out-of-control snack grazing.

Get enough protein during dinner.

Protein helps you feel fuller, longer. It also takes more time for your body to digest, meaning you’ll be less hungry a few hours later than if you had indulged in cereal for a mid-week dinner.

Make sure you brush and floss before bed.

You want to go to bed at night with clean teeth. That way there won’t be plaque or acids working away at your enamel or gum tissues. When your teeth are thoroughly clean at bedtime, you’ll be way less likely to want to get them dirty again with a midnight snack.

Plan your snacks

If you know you beyond a doubt that you’ll need a snack sometime between dinner and when you hit the hay, plan wisely. Set aside healthy pre-bedtime snacks before your oral hygiene routine. Such as grapes, nuts, sharp cheddar cheese, or apple slices. That way you can feel satisfied without feeling guilty. If you aren’t hungry enough to eat healthy, then are you really hungry at all? It’s probably just your brain playing a trick on you.

Is Your Sweet Tooth Getting the Best of You?

If you notice a twinge of sweet sensitivity or something feeling “off” with one of your teeth, you could potentially have a small cavity or older filling giving out. Call Paradise Dental Associates today to schedule your continued care appointment. Our Salem dental practice is a judgement-free zone, where we’ll help you get your oral health back on track, midnight snacking or not!

Contact us today to reserve your next appointment. 

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