Watching what you eat and drink is an important part of maintaining your health. But it can be difficult to properly choose a diet, especially with so many factors to consider. For many people, the main connection between nutrition and oral health is that certain things they eat can negatively impact their teeth and gums. However, food also plays an important role in keeping your smile healthy and strong for life. The key is to eat healthy and avoid the things that can harm your teeth and gums. Like the rest of your body, your smile needs certain nutrients to stay strong, fight off disease, and remain healthy.
Did you start the new year with one resolution at the forefront of your mind, to get healthy, once and for all? Whether your resolution has you going paleo, gluten-free, vegan, or following some other dietary plan, anytime you are making efforts to lessen your weight and increase your strength, it can be incredibly important to make sure your dental health won’t suffer from your new dietary changes. Understanding the biggest threats your teeth and gums face, can help make sure you’re making wise choices for both your body and your smile.
Nutrition and oral health
- Calcium – Calcium is one of your body’s most important minerals. Yet, your body doesn’t produce it naturally. Calcium is needed to form and maintain strong, healthy bones, as well as the protective enamel around your teeth. If you don’t consume enough calcium in your diet, such as through dairy products and leafy vegetables, then your bones and teeth can grow weaker, making you more susceptible to dental health issues.
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D is as important to your overall health as calcium. Among its many roles, vitamin D allows your body to properly absorb and utilize calcium as needed throughout your body. Like calcium, vitamin D is often found in dairy products and leafy vegetables, as well as lean meats like beef and chicken.
- Coenzyme Q10 – Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, isn’t as popular as calcium and vitamin D, but it’s equally important to the long-term health of your smile. It not only provides the cells in your oral tissues with the energy they need, but also acts as a powerful antioxidant that helps fight off harmful oral bacteria. Every cell in your body produces the coenzyme, though some people may experience deficiencies and might benefit from the right supplements.
Six foods and drinks that are good for your oral health
Let’s focus on the beverages:
- Water: Everyone should consume about 64 ounces (eight glasses) of water each day. You probably know that water keeps your skin and internal organs healthy. Water also prevents tooth decay by neutralizing harmful acids in your mouth and cleaning your mouth of food debris and plaque. Fluoridated water helps strengthen tooth enamel.
- Green tea: This drink is a natural source of fluoride. Green tea contains other compounds (like catechins and polyphenols) which can reduce bacteria growth in the mouth and inflammation. The tea can strengthen your tooth enamel and decrease your risk for gum disease.
- Milk: You’ve probably heard that this drink is good for your health since childhood. And it’s true: milk can neutralize bacteria, remineralize teeth, and strengthen bones. Milk contains calcium and phosphorous, both of which are particularly important for developing teeth and bones; vitamin A, which maintains mucous membranes in your mouth; and Vitamin D, which promotes calcium absorption for bone growth and strength.
- Strawberries: You might think that the pigments in this fruit would stain your teeth. But strawberries contain malic acid, so they actually clean and whitens teeth.
- Onions: Although onions won’t do any favors for your breath, they contain powerful antibacterial components that keep your mouth clean. Raw onions are especially potent. As for freshening post-onion breath, eat some parsley, or chew some gum sweetened with xylitol.
- Cheese: Like milk, cheese is also great for your teeth. It contains calcium, phosphate, and vitamins A and D, and chewing it stimulates saliva production to neutralize bacteria.
You might think fruit juice is good for you. If you think that, you’re right. It is good for you in some ways. For instance, it contains vitamin C which helps fight colds and other illnesses. It contains antioxidants which can help keep your heart healthy, and fight cancer and dementia. However, fruit juice is nutritious but not good for your oral health.
Pure fruit juice already contains naturally occurring sugars and in some cases pure fruit juice may have more sugar than soda. When sugars are added to juice they are labeled as a juice drink or a juice cocktail in the U.S. Certain fruit juices such as cranberry juice or lime juice are more acidic than vinegar. These acids wear down tooth enamel causing tooth decay, and irritate your gums, especially if consumed excessively. While many parents substitute juice for soda thinking they are helping their children, in one way they are–fruit juice is definitely more nutritious than soda–but fruit juice can harm their teeth. Orange juice, in particular, has been found to soften teeth and roughen tooth surfaces, leaving them vulnerable to decay.
You should avoid sports drinks (because they are high in citric acid, which can damage tooth enamel), sodas (because they are high in sugar, and even diet sodas contain erosion-causing phosphoric acid), and juice, coffee, tea, or other drinks sweetened with sugar. If you consume those beverages, rinse your mouth with water afterwards.
Are You Drinking or Eating a Lot of Sugar?
You already know sugar is bad for your teeth. The harmful bacteria in your mouth love to consume sugars and starches, and as they do they convert them into acids that break down your teeth causing cavities. The bacteria also build up as bacterial plaque, and if not removed by brushing, harden into tartar. Bacterial plaque and acids irritate the gum which can lead to gingivitis and eventually periodontitis. Periodontitis is the severe stage of periodontal disease, and is the major cause of tooth loss. Many products labeled diet, or targeted to athletes, body builders, and other active individuals, can still be shockingly high in sugar. From granola and energy bars, to sports drinks, smoothies and protein shakes, you might be surprised to check the labels of your favorite “health” products, only to find that they are filled with lots of sugar.
Sugar can be detrimental to your dental health, because the plaque bacteria in the mouth feed upon sugars. The more you’re consuming, then, the more likely you are to struggle with dental decay. To protect your teeth, get into the incredibly important habit of reading labels before you buy an prepackaged foods or drinks. Avoid those which list sugar (dextrose, molasses, honey, sucrose… can all be bad for the teeth) as one of the lead ingredients. And keep in mind that often the healthiest choice, is one that doesn’t come in a wrapper or bag, like a fresh apple instead of dried fruit (which has more sugar per ounce).
Are You Drinking Enough Water?
Another simple way to care for your smile, is by drinking plenty of water. Not only is proper hydration essential to your body’s wellbeing, especially when you have an active lifestyle, it’s also key to keeping your smile cavity-free and otherwise healthy. That’s because water helps you to produce saliva, which acts as a natural defense against tartar buildup. So make sure you’re getting plenty of H20 throughout each day.
Learn More About Nutrition and oral health
There are plenty of drinks that stain your teeth. Learn the ones that are all round good for you.With the right minerals and nutrients, you can give your smile the fuel it needs to stay healthy for life. To learn more, schedule a consultation by calling Lake Forest Dental Arts in Lake Forest, IL, at 847-234-0517. We also proudly serve residents of Chicago and all surrounding communities.