What is the Relationship Between Nutrition and Oral Health?

At Dr. Yip’s office, we like to take the time to educate our patients about the various ways to optimize oral health, including following proper nutrition and making healthy food choices.

You may think that what you eat doesn’t affect your oral health…but it does! And more than you can imagine! The food you ingest is not only vital to the function and development of your body, but it also supports your teeth, gums, jaw bones, tissues, etc. The health of your mouth and what we eat have a two way relationship; each affects the other. Diet and nutrition affect the health of the tissues in the mouth, and the health of the mouth can limit what you’re able to eat. According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA) nutrition and oral health are intrinsically related. Malnutrition affects the entire immune system, causing an increase in the susceptibility to the development of many disorders.

To reap the benefits of good oral health you need to have good nutrition practices. For this reason, it is necessary to promote the importance of balanced meals with plenty of vitamins and minerals, regular hygienic habits and twice yearly visits (at a minimum) to see Dr. Yip and her team for the prevention and intervention of diseases.

Foods you should avoid or limit: 

  • Sugar-filled sodas and carbonated beverages (bubbles=carbonic acid)
  • Sweetened fruit drinks/juices
  • Alcohol
  • Non-nutritious snacks/simple carbohydrates (e.g. chips, pretzels, crackers, non whole grain breads, etc.)
  • Granola bars (e.g. Nature Made, Quaker, Kind, Clif, Rx, etc.)
  • Candy (e.g. hard, soft, sticky, gummy, etc.)
  • Sour/acid (e.g. lemonade, sour candies/gummies, vinegar, kombucha, beer, etc.)
  • Cookies
  • Pastries
  • Dried fruits (e.g. raisins, apricots, mango, prunes, dates, etc.)
  • Sugars (fruit sugar, milk sugar and table sugar)

There are two well known dental conditions directly influenced by diet and nutrition: tooth decay and erosion. Food choices can affect how quickly cavities develop in children, teens, and adults. The consumption of sugars ( and simple carbohydrates) has been associated with an increased risk of developing dental caries (tooth decay), and the frequent consumption of acidic food and beverages is associated with an increased risk of erosive tooth wear. Although  poor nutrition is not the only factor on the above named diseases, it plays an important role on their existence. If your diet lacks certain nutrients, it may be more difficult for tissues in your mouth to resist infection. This may lead to periodontal disease. Poor nutrition may not directly cause periodontal disease, but the disease develops faster and is more severe in patients whose diet does not provide the required nutrients. Additionally, there are diseases which result from poor dietary habits, such as those with cardiovascular origin and diabetes, which can lead to serious dental complications. Diet can modulate the development of these diseases, and good nutritional oral habits can alleviate some of the consequences and symptoms.

What can you do to help your oral health? 

  • Maintain a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Make sure to drink enough water throughout the day to keep your mouth moist and decrease the amount of bacteria (thrive in dry environments)
  • Limit your snacks to nutritious foods that are low in sugar (no simple carbs)
  • Decrease the frequency of snacking and sipping throughout the day to decrease bacteria, acid, and erosion of enamel
  • Swish vigorously with regular flat water after eating to rid food debris and help neutralize some of the acid produced
  • Us a straw to drink beverages other than plain water
  • Daily consumption of calcium rich foods for stronger teeth and bones (e.g. cheese, no added sugar yogurt, milk, kefir, dark green leafy veggies, etc.)
  • Consume “scrubber” foods (e.g. apples, carrots, celery, cucumbers, nuts) to help wash away mouth debris, neutralize acids (prevent erosion and cavities), and rid halitosis (bad breath)
  • Pair certain foods together to counteract more acid and erosion—not as a separate snack (e.g. lunch with a carbonated drink, an orange/dessert)
  • Chew sugarless gum (xylitol) for 10-20 minutes after eating—stimulate saliva to help wash away food debris and neutralize the acids
  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste that has the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance—once in the morning as soon as you wake (before breakfast and coffee/tea) and before bedtime
  • Floss and use a water flossers (e.g. Waterpik) daily to remove plaque in between teeth and under the gums—should be done before bedtime
  • Schedule regular dental visits for checkups and cleanings. 

With the proper information in mind, you can become more aware of the consequences and can act accordingly to preserve your oral health. Always remember: eating a variety of foods as part of a well-balanced diet not only improves your dental health, but it may also reduce the risk of other diseases! 

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