The Nutrition & Oral Health Connection
You are surely aware that what you eat influences the well-being of your heart, your liver, your stomach and digestion, and other bodily systems.
So you may not be surprised to find out that maintaining a good diet is important to keeping your teeth and gums in great shape.
Read on to learn about a few foods and drinks that should be staples in your home — and a few that should be consumed in extreme moderation, if at all.
To schedule a cleaning and exam — and discuss nutrition and oral health with the doctor further — call Denise DiBona DDS, LLC at 732-945-5343.
Foods That Promote Dental Health
Creamy, salty, hard, stinky, luscious, crumbly . . . however you like your cheese, eat it and enjoy without guilt. Cheese shares a number of tooth-friendly characteristics with milk and other dairy products. It is an excellent source of calcium, which is a mineral that your teeth need to stay strong and that must be constantly replenished. Dairy products also contain proteins called caseins. These bond together and coat your tooth enamel, offering protection from bacteria and acids. Cheese is a little bit special, though. Research has shown that the act if chewing it actually raises the pH level of your mouth. This means fewer bacteria and acids plus a lower likelihood of decay and disease.
If you have a craving for something sweet, grab an apple from the fridge. While apples do contain some sugar, their oral health benefits far outweigh that little negative. They have a high water content and a crunchy, fibrous texture that massages the gums, cleans the teeth, and stimulates the production of saliva. This helps to rinse away bacteria and food particles and dilute acids. Plus, of course, apples are packed with healthful vitamins and minerals.
Leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, and watercress are great for your body overall and great for your teeth and gums specifically. They are rich in tooth-strengthening calcium, making them especially important for people who don’t eat dairy products. They are also a good source of folic acid, which may reduce inflammation and protect your gums from the bacteria and plaque that cause periodontal disease. Folic acid is especially important for pregnant women, whose gums are at risk from hormone-induced “pregnancy gingivitis.”
Drink your H20, and plenty of it. Water keeps your body hydrated and healthy. It serves to neutralize acids and clean your mouth of bacteria and food particles when you don’t have access to a toothbrush. We recommend developing the habit of carrying a reusable bottle filled with tap water everywhere and anywhere you go. And with meals, choose water over soda or juice.
Foods That Destroy Dental Health
Sticky & Gummy Sweets
Sweets with a sticky, gummy, or tacky texture will get lodged in the grooves of your teeth and stay there for a long time. They will feed growing numbers of bacteria, which will give off acids that wear away your tooth enamel and eventually cause cavities. So stay away from the obvious like gummy candies and jellied fruit snacks and rollups and the perhaps not-so-obvious like chewy granola bars and dried fruits. Yes, that’s right. You may think of raisins as a healthy snack, but they wreak havoc on your oral health.
Hard candies present a twofold danger to your dental well-being. Firstly, of course, they are practically pure sugar, which means bacteria just love them. When you suck on a piece of hard candy, the sugar mixes with your saliva, creating a viscous liquid that coats your mouth and feeds the acid-producing, teeth-destroying bacterial hoards. If you prefer chewing your hard candy, you may end up breaking a tooth. And that’s a dental emergency!
Get out of the soda habit. And the juice habit. And the sports drink habit. And teach your kids to choose plain white milk over sweetened flavored milks. Drinking your sugar is a serious problem. In liquid form, sugar is able to seep into all the nooks and crannies of your teeth, where it is difficult to remove. And that brings on the bacteria that produce acids that destroy your enamel. Diet soda isn’t a better alternative, as it is high in acid and will harm your teeth even without the help of bacteria. Choose cleansing water or calcium-boosting white milk.
We’ve already discussed the role of bacteria in producing acids that are harmful to your oral health. Some foods are already high in acid and they will damage your teeth just like bacterial acids. We’re looking at you, citrus fruits and pickles!