A healthy diet means that you’re providing your body all the nutrients it needs to stay strong and active. That kind of nutrition can also have a direct impact on your oral health
This is particularly important with young kids, who learn a lot of their nutritional habits in the early phases of life. A balanced diet from the very start will help them establish good oral hygiene routines and help them develop strong, decay-resistant teeth.
But it goes beyond just being about cavities, though. Oral health and nutrition are connected in many ways, and it’s not just a one-way relationship. If you develop oral diseases or lose teeth, or develop other dental problems, it can impact your ability to eat the nutritious foods you need.
A LOT has been written and researched on this subject, and what it all comes down to is something you’ve likely heard many times before: the things you eat and drink have a huge impact on your oral health. Shocking right? Never heard that before, right?
Well, we want to get into more of the details so you can more easily plan your diet and daily intake with your oral health in mind.
What You Need to Know
While most of us understand that eating and drinking foods and beverages that are high in sugar is potentially detrimental to our teeth, a number of studies are showing that there is a higher likelihood of getting cavities based on the frequency in which you consume them, not just the amount you consume.
The thing is, a lot of these foods don’t just create acids while they’re being eaten. Some can stick around for a half hour or more. If you keep snacking on those types of food, and not giving your saliva a chance to neutralize it, you’re just compounding the problem. And then even a little sticky sugar ends up going a long way.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Some foods actually help protect your teeth from decay, and if you include them in your diet, you can preserve tooth enamel, strengthen your gums, and keep a bright, healthy smile.
Getting into the Science
Let’s take a closer look at the things that increase or decrease your risk for cavities and other oral diseases.
Some of the things in your diet may seem innocent enough, but they could be increasing your risks. These foods and drinks include:
- Sugary drinks, from fruit drinks to soft drinks and sugar-sweetened teas and coffees
- Hard candies that dissolve slowly
- Sticky foods, even if they seem healthy like raising and dried fruits
- Snacks that are high in sugar and starch, such as cakes and cookies
- Simple sugars like sucrose
At the same time, your eating behaviors may contribute to increased risk if you:
- Frequent partake of sugary foods, even in small amounts
- Eating sticky foods alone without anything else to help remove them from the teeth
- Sip at your sugary drink throughout the day, keeping your teeth constantly exposed to the beverage
But there are some things you can do to decrease the risk and prevent dental problems.
- Limit your between-meal snacks.
- Chew sugar-free gum, especially right after a meal
- Eat fresh/raw fruits and vegetables that are known to help generate saliva
- Eat whole grain foods that are low in sugar
- Include foods with high-quality proteins (like chicken or cheese)
- Space the frequency of eating out a little bit to give your saliva time to neutralize some of the acids and bacteria on your teeth
Some other factors in your diet can also impact your oral health.
- Insufficient protein in your diet = Slowed response to infections and wounds in the soft tissues in the mouth. Also, the antibacterial properties in the saliva are hindered.
- Insufficient Vitamins A, C, E, Copper, Iron, and Zinc = Lowered anti-inflammatory abilities and hindered immune response.
- Insufficient Vitamins D, K, Calcium = Loss of bone density, increasing risk of teeth coming loose.
Streamlining Your Nutritious Diet
Of course, if you’re ready to make some real changes to your diet, it’s always wise to consult with a certified dietician. However, there are some foods and drinks that you can use to improve your oral health.
- Water – Especially fluoridated water. Make sure you get plenty of it.
- Dairy – While not everyone can consume dairy, these products are low in sugar and contain protein and calcium which strengthen teeth.
- Meat, poultry, fish, milk, and eggs – These phosphorus-rich foods strengthen your teeth with valuable proteins and can even protect and rebuild tooth enamel.
- Fruits and vegetables – No surprise here. These are important in any balanced diet. They are high in water and fiber and can even help clean your teeth.
- Nuts – Here you’ll find proteins that help strengthen teeth, and they can help produce more saliva as you chew them.
The relationship between your daily nutrition and the health of your teeth is very important, and it is connected in several ways. Take a look at some of your current routines and see if there’s something you can do to improve one or the other. Start small, and see what kind of difference it can make.