It’s no secret that eating a balanced diet can improve our overall health, but did you know that what you choose to eat and drink can also affect your oral health? At Langford Orthodontics, smiles are our passion, but that’s only one part of what we do here. We’re on a mission to help our patients improve the health of their teeth and gums, too! Orthodontic treatment is one way we can achieve this, but a nutritious diet is an important part of the process, as well. In order to give you a better understanding of how nutrition and oral health are linked, we’ve put together this information on how good foods can protect your teeth, how a poor diet can negatively affect them, and what you can do to maintain a happy, healthy mouth. Keep reading to learn more!
Nutrition: a building block for oral health
It might seem strange, but nutrition affects oral health before we’re ever even born. That’s because the nutrients an expectant mother consumes, such as calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, and protein, help a baby’s teeth begin to form and mineralize properly. This continues throughout our lives. In our teen years, teeth continue to develop and mineralize, while the oral tissues never stop recycling. To support this process successfully, a variety of vitamins and minerals are needed. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is by eating a healthy diet and drinking lots of water.
Good nutrition isn’t just one of the building blocks of oral health – it’s also a preventative measure. When you have nutritional deficiencies, it can reduce your resistance to dental disease, and inhibit your body’s ability to fight certain types of infection. Your overall diet can help prevent tooth decay and enamel erosion, but the reverse is true, as well. Human mouths are naturally hospitable to all different kinds of bacteria, and not all of them are helpful. In fact, many of these harmful microorganisms thrive on sugar in your diet.
As bad bacteria process ingested sugar, they begin producing acids that can eat into the enamel of your teeth. This can set the stage for cavities, which are really just small holes that form in the teeth. When left untreated over time, tooth decay can continue to worsen. It may become painful, and eventually, teeth can loosen or even fall out.This is one of the biggest reasons we’re advised to avoid consuming too much added sugar in our food and drinks.
For a healthier mouth, adopt a healthier diet
Luckily, any concerns about sugars in foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are unfounded. There’s no evidence that these types of naturally occurring sugars are harmful to the teeth, even when they come in starch-rich staples like bread, rice, and potatoes. Since these can be excellent sources of healthy vitamins and minerals, that’s good news for your smile! Foods like this can beneficial in many ways, but more specifically, they help strengthen your teeth and protect enamel. Bonus: most of them are safe for braces.
If you’re looking for specifics on how healthier choices in your diet can give you a stronger smile and improve your oral health, we’ve outlined a few examples below.
Milk and other dairy products
Who doesn’t love cheese or a tall glass of cold milk? Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are not only delicious, they are full of calcium, which helps keep your bones and teeth healthy and strong.
Whole grain bread and pastas
There are a number of complex carbohydrates contained in certain whole grains that give bad bacteria less digestible food to grow on. This is in addition to many different nutrients that help your mouth stay healthy.
Chicken, red meat, and fatty fish
Though protein tends to be the star of the show with these foods, they also contain phosphorus, a vital component when it comes to strengthening your teeth and protecting the tooth enamel.
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Eating a wide variety of fruits and veggies is one of the best things you can do for your health. Leafy greens in particular are good for your oral health since they contain high amounts of magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, beta carotene, calcium and magnesium. These minerals are instrumental in improving and maintaining oral health.
We may love soda, juice, and sports drinks in this country, but there’s no denying they’re bad for us. They’re all notorious for leaving behind sugars that provide a veritable banquet for bacteria. As the bacteria devours this sugar, it produces acid that can eat away at the enamel of your teeth. Sodas and juices can also have phosphoric, citric, or malic acids added to them, all of which can exacerbate enamel erosion.
Water, on the other hand, is wonderful for you in multiple ways. It washes away the leftover food and debris bacteria love, and it also dilutes the acids produced by these bacteria. If you suffer from dry mouth or bad breath, drinking more water can help bring both under control! While drinking water throughout the day is no substitute for a regular oral hygiene routine, it can definitely go a long way towards keeping your mouth clean and healthy, while reducing the risk of cavities.
The best diet for your oral health
The best diet will vary from one individual to another, and depends on various factors like age, gender, height, weight, and fitness level. However, most people can benefit from paying attention to the following concepts.
There are a million different diets and products that advertise their ability to meet all your daily nutritional requirements with a certain type of food, drink, or shake. Don’t fall for it! The only way to get what your body needs is by eating a variety of healthy foods and drinking enough water.
To maintain a balanced diet, aim to eat several types of foods from each of the five major food groups daily. This includes:
- whole grains
- lean sources of protein (lean beef, skinless poultry and fish, dry beans, peas, and other legumes)
- dairy foods
In general, you should aim to consume foods and beverages in their appropriate serving sizes whenever possible. This is especially important when it comes to anything that’s heavy on added sugar! You may want to think about limiting the number of snacks you eat in between meals, too. What you eat affects the level of acidity in your mouth, but so does when you’re eating. Foods that are eaten as part of a balanced meal actually cause less harm to the teeth than eating lots of snacks throughout the day. This is down to the fact that more saliva tends to be released during a meal, and that extra saliva is helpful in washing foods from your mouth and neutralizing harmful acids being produced.
Langford Orthodontics can help you find your healthiest smile
It’s clear that what you choose to eat and drink can have a big impact on your oral health – for better or worse! Here at Langford Orthodontics, we’re able to provide the treatment and support to give you a straighter smile, but you can improve your own oral health by adopting a healthier diet. Not only will this gives your smile a little extra sparkle, it can also improve your overall health, too!
If you’re in Knoxville or any of the surrounding communities, and would like to learn more about how good nutrition can improve your oral health, reach out to us today. We’d love to schedule a free consultation for you! We’re always happy to give patients of all ages tips on how to improve oral hygiene at home for a healthier, stronger smile.
- Dr. LangfordBack to Blog