By Brian J. Gray, DDS, MAGD, FICO
What you eat affects your oral health destiny. You can dramatically impact your dental health by eating a well-balanced, healthful diet. Research has shown that poor nutrition jeopardizes our oral health, which puts you at risk for a number of serious dental problems.
Our food choices can make a big difference in two of the most common diseases today: tooth decay and gum disease. Certain foods, especially those containing sugar, are directly linked to increased levels of cavity-causing bacteria. Tooth decay results when acids from the bacteria attack the teeth forming cavities. While diet doesn't directly cause gum disease, a condition affecting the supporting tissues of the teeth, researchers believe the disease is more rapid and severe when poor nutrition is a factor. Gum disease is a serious problem, since it can lead to tooth loss if untreated.
The American Dietetic Association and the National Institutes of Health recommend eating a well-balanced diet including plenty of fruits, vegetables, a good variety of breads and cereals, dairy products, fish, chicken, dried beans and peas, and meat. Enjoying a variety of foods is the best way to get all the important nutrients needed for keeping healthy. Beware of fad diets that exclude entire food groups. This can cause nutritional deficiencies.
Snacking is a favorite pastime, but certain snack choices promote tooth decay such as soft, sweet, sticky foods. Select nutritious snacks better for your teeth and general good oral health, especially colorful, juicy fresh fruits and crisp, crunchy vegetables. Choose your snacks based on any other dietary concerns, such as low cholesterol, low-fat, or low sodium diets.
If you snack on crackers, cookies, or chips, it's better if you eat them in combination with other foods, such as cheese with crackers, rather than alone. This is because these foods when eaten alone tend to produce more bacteria in the mouth leading to tooth decay. Remember, each time you snack, oral bacteria is activated. Drink plenty of water to rinse away some of the disease-causing bacteria. If possible, brush your teeth after snacking.
Select from the wide variety of foods for healthful eating -- that are good for you and your oral health.