The Importance of Diet and Nutrition for Oral Health
Diet and nutrition are major contributors to oral health, and if you look after one it will likely impact the other. The American Dental Association calls this relationship “bidirectional” because just as your diet and nutrition affect the health of the tissues in your mouth, so the health of your mouth affects the nutrients you consume. The foods you consume carry nutrients necessary for growth, repairing injured tissue and maintaining its health, and providing energy for your daily activities.
At our dental clinic in Surrey, BC, our dentists are acutely aware of the importance of diet and nutrition. If poor oral health stops you from being able to chew and absorb properly, you could be at risk for nutrition-related medical conditions.
The Impact of Nutrition on Dental Caries
Dental caries develop when oral bacteria create acid that dissolves some of your tooth enamel, leaving a cavity where the tooth pulp and nerves are exposed. This acid is produced by the remains of carbohydrates you’ve eaten fermenting in your mouth.
We’ve known for a long time that consuming sugar increases your risk for dental caries, but so does eating potato chips, crackers, and cereals that contain oligonucleotides and maltodextrins or food additives.
The carbohydrates that cause acid include sugars and starches found in grains, fruit, vegetables, and sweetened foods such as candy, beverages, and baked goods. If you’re aiming to have model teeth, it’s time you cut down on these additive-rich foods and began eating more wholesome meals.
When (and How) You Eat Also Matters
Your consumption behaviors can also impact your oral health risks. For example, you can lower your risk by:
- Eating structured meals consisting of combined protein and carbohydrates up to five or six times a day
- Drinking sugar-laden drinks such as pop or fruit juice quickly through a straw, so they don’t come in contact with your tooth surfaces
- Avoiding eating for two hours before bedtime to give your saliva time to cleanse your mouth before sleeping.
On the other hand, practices that increase your risks for cavities include:
- ongoing grazing during the day,
- swirling food and drink around in your mouth,
- holding it in your cheeks (where it can leave residue) or elsewhere in contact with your teeth for more than a few seconds, or
- snacking during the night.
If you’re an incurable midnight smacker, don’t be alarmed. You can work to keep the dental cavities at bay by rinsing your mouth with water or chewing sugar-free gum. If you prefer to brush and floss your teeth, wait 20 minutes after eating to give the saliva time to clean your teeth off.
Avoiding Gum Disease
Periodontists or gum disease is a bacterial, plaque-related illness that causes oral inflammation and the loss of supporting bone and soft tissue structures. At our dental clinic in Surrey, BC, we often see patients with signs of developing gum disease. Treating this successfully depends on having a normally functioning immune system. This, in turn, requires getting suitable nutrition and avoiding nutrition-related conditions like obesity and poorly controlled diabetes, which are both risks for periodontal disease. Higher weight and a larger waist measurement are also signs of an increased risk factor for periodontists in teens, while a high BMI escalates this risk in adults.
Maintaining Daily Energy
You need to consume enough calories and protein to get the energy to perform your daily activities and metabolic functions. Otherwise, you become lethargic, your cell growth slows, wounds take longer to heal, and your body is more susceptible to infection. For example, a vitamin C deficiency is known to cause increased bleeding, while low calcium and vitamin D intake could be related to periodontists. This makes it imperative to choose foods that not only meet your nutritional requirements but are recommended for weight management and glycemic control.
Get a Nutritional Assessment
Getting a nutritional assessment is the first step towards improving your oral health through diet. Many dental signs of malnutrition are less than obvious and aren’t necessarily caused by food intake but could be problems with absorption, utilization, or excretion of the nutrients. The assessment will include questions about what and when you eat, your medical, social, and medication history, and a dental examination. The team at our dental clinic in Surrey, BC, will give you recommendations on lifestyle changes you can make to improve your oral health.
For more information on nutrition and oral health, or to schedule your next exam or cosmetic teeth whitening procedure, please click here or call us at 604-593-7866.