Diet and Nutrition for the Teeth
The analogy goes like this: If you are building a house, and you give the builder really poor quality bricks, cement, wood, nails, floor boards or not enough materials, are you really going to expect them to build you a really big, spacious, solid house?
If you don't expect that of the builder, why are you expecting that of your body or your child's body when it comes to diet and nutrition? Are you getting the right vitamins and nutrients? No, I don't mean for you to simply eat your usual fruit and veges and then thinking it'll be even stevens. Do you actually know what foods give you what nutrients and what foods may potentially not give you as many vitamins and nutrients as you thought? Are there any vitamins and nutrients that are lacking in your diet now which may be affecting your mouth and body in ways you didn't even know?
Everything you eat and drink can have a major effect on the health of your teeth and gums, particularly whether you develop tooth decay, a diet related disease which is caused when the sugars in the food and drinks you eat are taken up by bacteria; these in turn produce the acids that can attack the outer layer of tooth enamel. If you have any specific dietary and nutritional concerns, please do seek a professional dietician. To ensure that your diet doesn't negatively affect your teeth and oral health, there are a few simple things our dentists at Capstone Dental Seven Hills want you to keep in mind:
Drink lots of water
It’s calorie free, there are no ingredient labels to stress over, and it’s almost free! Even better, tap water in most areas of Australia contains fluoride, one of the easiest and most beneficial ways to help prevent tooth decay. If you choose water over anything else, and regularly sip it throughout the day, you're going a long way to making real difference to the health of your teeth.
Drinking water immediately after meals helps to rinse away the plaque and helps to minimise stains on the teeth. Think about the dirty plate or cup that you have after eating a meal or drinking a coffee. If you rinse it in the sink straight after your meal, it becomes quite easy to clean. But if you leave the plate or cup sitting around for a few hours, all the food scraps and stains are stuck and harder to clean. It can be similar for our teeth
Note: We understand and respect that some of our patients are concerned with fluoridated water. Scientific research and studies suggest that very very low concentrations of fluoride (1 part in a million) in the community water can significantly reduce tooth decay in children and adults. Boiling water does not remove fluoride from fluoridated water. You need a proper filter to remove it.
Limit snacking between meals
A key component in helping to prevent decay is saliva which helps your teeth recover from these attacks by neutralising the acids. Its good work, however, can be undone if you snack frequently between meals, which means your teeth don't get a break from the acid attacks that occur when you eat. Also, limit sugary treats to meal times, rather than between meals.
Watch what you eat - 'You are what you eat'
It is not just the obvious sweet foods and drinks such as lollies and soft drinks that can cause decay. Frequent snacking on foods with hidden sugars like biscuits, crackers, cereals, chips and even dried fruit (these foods break down into sugars in the mouth) can cause acid attacks on your tooth enamel.
Foods with sugars in them feed the bad bacteria inside the mouth and can cause them to grow rapidly. The more bad bacteria there is in the mouth, the higher the chance that they produce acids that cause tooth decay and rot away at the teeth. Sugary foods are not necessarily bad but we do want to limit the amount that we do eat and ensure we do balance our diets and drink plenty of water afterwards to wash away the sugars. This can also be true for foods and drinks with natural sugars in them like fruit and fruit juices - while these have lots of nutrients or vitamins, they still have sugars which can still contribute to tooth decay. But manage by balancing it with drinking water
Acidic or fizzy foods and drinks (e.g. lemons, tomatoes, oranges, vinegar, soft drinks, etc) can damage the teeth chemically and wear it down by making it weaker, over time, the teeth can look worn down and shorter. It is recommended that you limit the intake of acidic foods and drinks and make sure you drink plenty of water.
Chewing Gum anyone?
Chewing sugar-free gum (and that’s the crucial qualifier, it must be sugar-free!) may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you’re thinking about good dietary habits that benefit your teeth. But studies have shown that chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after eating can prompt your mouth to produce more saliva, which helps neutralise decay-causing acid attacks.
Resources on Diet and Nutrition for the Teeth
The Surprising Link between your teeth, real food and life changing natural health. I used to care but not really care about my diet and nutrition. I ate whatever I wanted and balanced it back up with exercise and eating cleaner later on. But one book that has challenged my approach and thinking towards food is The Dental Diet by Dr Steven Lin. Why would our diet and nutrition affect the size of our jaw or our breathing or sleeping habits? Why does it matter that we care about diet and nutrition right from infancy when a child is born or even beforehand? The Dental Diet is very easy to understand and has helped immensely in making me think more carefully about what I eat - nutrition and vitamins ARE IMPORTANT. That's why we are what we eat. In time I'll write a more in depth summary of the book and key messages I took away from it. You can purchase this book at your local bookshop or order it online. If you drop by our dental clinic, I'd lend it to you to read. At around $30, I think it was worth every penny with all the nuggets of gold Dr Lin provides. But like I said at the start of this article, if you want specific dietary advice, you should seek professional help from a dietitian.
If you need help on brushing your teeth or flossing, check out our previous blog posts:
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