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Posted on: March 26, 2023
Diet and Dental Health: What’s the Connection?
When it comes to keeping your smile healthy, brushing and flossing are just a part of the picture. Your diet also plays a big role in your dental health. What you choose to eat and drink can make a big difference in the way your smile looks, feels, and works. Our dentist in Palm Coast can help you learn to make the best choices to keep your teeth and gum health on track. This includes limiting sugar and soft drinks and opting instead for nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits, and other foods and drinking water.
If you have a hectic schedule or a busy lifestyle, you might find yourself reaching for “grab-and-go” foods or snacking often. While these snacks can provide the calories to fuel you when you don’t have the time to sit down for a meal, the wrong snacks could increase your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
When you eat or drink anything sweet or starchy, saliva mixes with the sugars in the food to create a sticky biofilm called plaque. Plaque is home to numerous oral bacteria, which release an acidic byproduct. This acid erodes dental and can lead to dental decay. Acid attacks can last as long as 20 minutes after eating and drinking, which means that frequent snacking or sipping a sugary drink could put your teeth at serious risk. You might also be putting yourself at a higher risk of potentially serious health issues, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
While regular brushing and flossing keep plaque under control, it might not be enough to counter all-day acid attacks. A tooth-friendly diet can help.
Minerals for Strong Teeth
The first step to strong teeth is a diet rich in bone-building minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus. These help remineralize enamel and keep teeth hard. Calcium-rich cheese, milk, unsweetened yogurt, dark and leafy greens, and almonds are all great choices.
To properly absorb calcium, you also need vitamin D. Vitamin D-rich foods include egg yolks, fatty fish like salmon, and mushrooms. Many dairy products are fortified with vitamin D as are some juices, and your body makes vitamin D when you are outside in the sun. Most people need just a few minutes of unprotected sun exposure a day. Because vitamin D also has anti-inflammatory effects, it can also be a great choice for gum health!
You can get more phosphorus in your diet through protein-rich foods, like milk, eggs, poultry, red meat, and fish. Other important minerals for your smile include potassium, which can be found in spinach, lentils, avocado, and bananas, and magnesium, which can be found in spinach, pumpkin seeds, and nuts.
Say Yes to Produce
Your teeth and gums also benefit from a diet high in fruits and vegetables. Fibrous veggies help scrub plaque from teeth and are low in sugar and starch. Both fruits and veggies stimulate saliva flow, which neutralizes oral acids and plays a role in the remineralization process.
Veggies and fruits are also good sources of the vitamins your teeth need. Citrus fruit, for example, is a great source of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that can help keep your gums healthy. Other good sources of vitamin C include bell peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, cruciferous veggies, and sweet potatoes.
Vitamin A is another nutritional powerhouse when it comes to your smile. This nutrient is critical for healing, which means it can boost your gum health. Look for dark and leafy greens, tomatoes, red bell peppers, and cantaloupe for more vitamin A. You can also get vitamin A through eggs, milk, fish oils, and beef liver.
A colorful diet with a wide variety of vitamins is best for keeping your smile brilliant and healthy.
Choose Drinks Wisely
When you’re thirsty, do you reach for soft drinks, energy drinks, or sweetened coffee drinks? Many of us do, but these drinks are not necessarily doing us any favors. The sugar feeds plaque and bacterial growth, and some of the drinks contain strong acids, which can soften your dental enamel and make it more vulnerable to decay.
No drink is better for your teeth than water. Fluoridated water can inhibit bacteria, remineralize teeth, and fight tooth decay. It can also help you stay hydrated and replenish the fluids in your mouth, combating dry mouth and keeping your gums healthy. Water can also be handy if you cannot brush right after snacking as it flushes food debris from your mouth.
Alternatives to Water
Plain water with fluoride is always the best choice for your teeth, but if you’re not much of a water drinker, you can mix it up. In moderation, sparkling water can be enjoyed instead of soda and other sweet drinks. You can also make infused water using fluoridated tap water and berries or a few slices of cucumbers and mint sprigs.
Carry water with you to promote good water drinking habits. Use an insulated bottle with ice to keep it chilled and ready to drink at all times.
The Link Between Dental Health and Overall Health
Tooth and gum health is essential not only for a bright smile but for a strong body, too. Researchers have found links between gum disease and serious health issues such as diabetes, stroke, pregnancy complications, pneumonia, and heart disease. Tooth loss is associated with dementia.
Unfortunately, some health problems are also linked to dental problems. Autoimmune disorders, some cancers, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease can all increase your risk of serious dental problems, including gum disease and tooth loss.
Keeping your smile healthy comes down to a combination of healthy lifestyle choices, good dental hygiene, and regular visits to our dentist in Palm Coast for checkups and cleanings. Depending on your risk factors, our dentist may recommend other preventive care measures. Contact us today to find out more or to schedule your next appointment.