Nutrition & Oral Health: Which Foods Are Good for Your Teeth?
A battle is being waged for your oral health – on a microscopic scale. The microorganisms living within your oral microbiome have the ability to both help and harm your oral health, and they thrive on the foods and beverages you consume.
It’s up to you to arm the beneficial bacteria with the right nutrients to hold the line while depriving the bad bacteria of the foods they need to wreak havoc on your teeth and gums.
We’ll walk you through the ways food impacts your oral health and offer guidance on how your food choices can help you avoid developing common oral health conditions.
How foods impact your gums and teeth
The foods and beverages you consume are key to maintaining both your oral health and whole body health.
From the moment food enters your mouth, your body begins to break down and utilize its component properties. This process is aided by mastication and saliva production and continues throughout your digestive system.
What you consume is broken down into
While a balance of each of these components is important for maintaining whole-body health, the reality is we often consume unbalanced diets. In fact, globally we take in too much sugar and too few vitamins and minerals.
This imbalance can lead to complications in both oral and whole-body health.
The role of food in the fight against common oral health conditions
Development of dental caries
You’re likely more familiar with the common terms for dental caries: tooth decay or dental cavities.
Dental caries is the most common health condition in the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) cites free sugars (sometimes called “added sugar”) as “the essential dietary factor in the development of dental caries.”
The harmful bacteria in your mouth metabolize sugars and produce acid that can cause demineralisation of tooth enamel.
Demineralisation of tooth enamel
Enamel and dentine are the hard tissues of the teeth. Once these tissue layers are breached, teeth are far more susceptible to infection and decay.
Chemical demineralisation is caused by acids in the foods you eat and the beverages you drink. Additionally, acid is produced as a byproduct of the bacteria in your mouth processing sugars, further exacerbating chemical demineralisation.
Consuming sugary, carbonated drinks is a significant risk factor for accelerated demineralisation.
Bleeding, receding, and inflamed gums are an indication of serious oral health conditions known as gingivitis and periodontitis.
We dedicated a whole post to the foods that help fight gingivitis, but it’s equally important to advise on which foods will specifically help or hinder the healing of gum tissues.
Stopping gingivitis before it has the opportunity to advance to periodontitis should be your goal.
Consuming low-sugar, low-acid foods that fight inflammation, when combined with regular dental care and a complete daily oral care ritual, can help put a stop to the progression of gum disease.
Establishing good habits for better oral health
Consuming a balanced diet and enjoying treats in moderation is key for both your oral and whole-body health.
Simple changes to your consumption habits can improve your oral health outcomes. Drink water with your meals and snacks and after consuming sugary drinks or alcohol, and wait 30 minutes after consuming acidic foods or beverages before brushing your teeth.
Practice good oral care habits every day
When making changes to your diet or habits, it’s best to make only one or two big changes at a time so you don’t become overwhelmed and give up. Over time, this will help you transition to a more balanced, healthier lifestyle.
Most importantly, establish a daily oral care ritual that includes interdental cleaning and brushing for two minutes, twice a day.