Nutrition is vital in maintaining good oral health and/or preventing further damage. This link seems obvious yet many people still do not acknowledge the impact diet has on dental health. You only get one set of adult teeth and they will go through a lot of wear and tear so it is a good idea to take good care of them! Taking your oral health for granted can result in unpleasant procedures and discomfort later in life. When the health of a person’s teeth and gums is compromised, they tend to eat less nutritiously due to difficulties with mastication.
When we are children, diet is important in the development of our teeth and when we are adults it is important in the maintenance and making sure we can keep all of our teeth!
What can a poor diet lead to?
A cavity is a hole in the enamel of the tooth. We are now finding that cavities are becoming a more common occurrence and also at a younger age. How do cavities occur? They result from a buildup of plaque. Plaque consists mostly of bacteria. When carbohydrates and sugar are broken down, the bacteria produces acids and the acid can then damage the teeth.
Simply put, this is gum disease. Gingivitis is a well known one and causes inflammation of the gums. If Gingivitis is not manages, pockets can form between the teeth and gums. Unfortunately these pockets are a breeding ground for bacteria which over time can destroy the tissue that connects teeth to bones – this is referred to as periodontitis.
When the gums are inflamed like this and become broken, bacteria can more easily pass in to the blood stream. This can actually lead to other health concerns! One of the risk factors for coronary artery disease is actually periodontal disease. Research has found that the bacteria within our gums can also be found in the plaque on arterial walls.
In many ways periodontal disease can be avoided by maintaining a healthy diet. The treatment of periodontal disease is not fun, so its better to eat healthy and avoid the problem altogether.
How nutrient deficiencies impact oral health
The development and maintenance of healthy teeth and gums relies on good nutrition. This does not only mean cutting back on sugar but also ensuring adequate intake of vitamins and minerals. Vitamins and minerals are responsible for growth, repair and keeping the immune system strong. Therefore they are important in maintaining structural integrity. Cells within the mouth turn over on a weekly basis so not having appropriate nutrition can impact this process.
How you can maintain good oral health
- Stick to water and plain milk. Avoid all carbonated beverages, juices, cordials and any drinks that have sugar added.
- Brush and floss at least morning and night.
- Avoid foods that will get stuck to your teeth e.g. dried fruit.
- Limit foods with added sugar e.g. chocolate, lollies.
- Dairy helps to strengthen teeth but also prevents tooth decay by forming a protective film around the tooth enamel and neutralizing the acid produced by bacteria.
- Chew sugar free gum to increase saliva production.
- Drink water after each time you eat, particularly if the food is sugary or acidic.
- Eat a well balanced, nutritious diet to ensure you’re receiving adequate nutrition to maintain the health of your gums and teeth – these tissues need to repair and rebuild themselves too!
- Cease smoking.
- Ensure dentures fit properly.
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist. If you have questions about healthy eating, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today!