Diet and Oral Health
Good nutrition and diet are important for your overall health, and that includes the health of your teeth.
How does diet affect your oral health? Tooth decay or cavities are caused by acid that develops from interaction between oral bacteria and food deposits left on your teeth. Certain foods and snacks which are either sticky or contain higher levels of sugar or starch cause increased levels of acid-producing bacteria in the mouth. Poor nutrition also weakens your immune system and causes susceptibility to additional health problems, including periodontal or gum disease. How can I maintain good nutrition? Diligent healthy choices, variety and moderation are the key to a healthy diet. Eat well-balanced meals and choose a variety of options from the five major food groups:
Limiting or eliminating one of these food groups can lead to vitamin or mineral deficiencies, which can impact your overall physical and oral health.
You can find additional information on healthy eating habits and guidelines at www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines. What vitamins and minerals are recommended for optimal oral health? The teeth and jaws are made mostly of calcium, which helps protect and rebuild your tooth enamel. A diet deficient in calcium raises the risk of gum disease and tooth decay. To ensure a well-balanced diet, make sure to eat foods high in calcium such as beans, greens, milk, yogurt and cheese. Research has shown that dairy products help reduce your risk of cavities. Vitamin D (found in milk, eggs and fish) is an important nutrient because it helps your body absorb calcium. A Vitamin D deficiency can lead to Burning Mouth Syndrome, a painful condition in which patients feel a scalding sensation on the tongue, lips, palate or throughout the mouth. To further protect your teeth, consume foods containing phosphorous (meat, poultry, fish, milk and eggs) and Vitamin A (sweet potatoes, liver and spinach). Vitamin C (found in oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, kiwi and red/green peppers) promotes healthy gums and quick healing of wounds. A severe lack of Vitamin C can result in bleeding gums or loose teeth. Other nutrients that promote good oral health include Vitamin B3 (found in chicken and fish), Vitamins B2 and B12 (found in pasta, bagels, spinach and almonds), and iron (found in liver, red meat, bran cereal and nuts). What foods should be avoided to obtain optimal oral health? Sugar fuels and increases the growth of bacteria that produce acid and cause tooth decay. Try to avoid excessive intake of sugary foods and beverages such as candy, desserts, fruit juices and soda. Sugar-free diet soda is harmful to your teeth, as are all types of soda containing carbonation (carbonic acid) which causes tooth erosion and breakdown. Carbohydrates such as chips, bread, pasta or crackers promote acid-causing bacteria which can be just as harmful to your teeth as sugar. When you eat carbohydrates, eat them as part of your meal, rather than by themselves. Combinations of foods such as cheese and crackers can help neutralize acids. One should minimize the consumption of sticky, chewy foods like raisons, granola bars, jelly beans, caramel, honey and syrup. It’s difficult for the saliva to wash away these foods, so they can cling to your teeth for long periods and cause decay. We are happy to address any other questions or concerns you may have. To access additional information on this subject, visit the American Dental Association or Academy of General Dentistry websites.
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(Excerpts from the American Dental Association and Academy of General Dentistry Websites)