You may be able to prevent two of the most common diseases of modern civilization, tooth decay (caries) and periodontal (gum) disease, simply by improving your diet. Decay results when the teeth and other hard tissues of the mouth are destroyed by acid products from oral bacteria.
Poor nutrition affects the entire immune system, thereby increasing susceptibility to many disorders. People with lowered immune systems have been shown to be at higher risk for periodontal disease. Additionally, research shows a link between oral health and systemic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. So eating a variety of foods as part of a well-balanced diet may not only improve your dental health, but increasing fiber and vitamin intake may also reduce the risk of other diseases.
Tooth decay happens when plaque come into contact with sugar in the mouth, causing acid to attack the teeth.
Foods that contain sugars of any kind can contribute to tooth decay. To control the amount of sugar you eat, read the nutrition facts and ingredient labels on foods and beverages and choose options that are lowest in sugar. Common sources of sugar in the diet include soft drinks, candy, cookies and pastries. If your diet lacks certain nutrients, it may be more difficult for tissues in your mouth to resist infection. This may contribute to gum disease. Severe gum disease is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Many researchers believe that the disease progresses faster and is potentially more severe in people with poor nutrition.
For healthy living and for healthy teeth and gums, think before you eat and drink. It’s not only what you eat but when you eat that can affect your dental health. Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks.
For good dental health, keep these tips in mind when choosing your meals and snacks:
- Drink plenty of water.
- Eat a variety of foods from each of the five major food groups, including:
- whole grains
- lean sources of protein such as lean beef, skinless poultry and fish; dry beans, peas and other legumes
low-fat and fat-free dairy food
-Include calcium, vitamin C and D rich foods in your diet.
BEST FOODS FOR CALCIUM:Yogurt (fat-free, low-fat), milk (fat-free, 1% low-fat), soy milk, cheese (fat-free, reduced-fat), tofu with calcium (check nutrition label), soybeans, frozen yogurt (fat-free, low-fat), low-fat ice cream, kale, white beans, collard greens, broccoli, almonds and almond butter
BEST FOODS FOR VITAMIN D:Wild salmon (fresh, canned), mackerel , sardines, herring, milk (fat-free, 1% low-fat), soy milk, fortified yogurt (fat-free, low-fat), egg yolks, vitamin D-enhanced mushrooms
BEST FOODS FOR VITAMIN C:Guava, bell peppers (all colors), oranges and orange juice, grapefruit and grapefruit juice, strawberries, pineapple, papaya, lemons and lemon juice, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, kidney beans, kiwi, cantaloupe, cauliflower, cabbage (all varieties), mangoes, white potato, mustard greens, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, snow peas, turnip greens, raspberries, blackberries, watermelon, tangerines, okra, lychees, summer squash, persimmons
Limit the number of snacks you eat. If you do snack, choose something that is healthy like fruit or vegetables or a piece of cheese. Foods that are eaten as part of a meal cause less harm to teeth than eating lots of snacks throughout the day, because more saliva is released during a meal. Saliva helps wash foods from the mouth and lessens the effects of acids, which can harm teeth and cause cavities.
For good dental health, always remember to brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, floss daily and visit your dentist regularly. With regular dental care, your dentist can help prevent oral problems from occurring in the first place and catch those that do occur in the early stages, while they are easy to treat.