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Posted on: March 26, 2023
Dental Health through Good Nutrition
What you eat and drink every day can have far-reaching effects on more than just your waistline. Your diet can increase or decrease your risk of many common dental problems, including cavities, enamel erosion, and gum disease. While regular brushing and flossing along with routine visits to our dentist in Owings Mills are important, your diet matters as well.
A diet high in sugar, acidic drinks, processed foods, or frequent snacking could risk your smile. Our dentist in Owings Mills encourages our patients to choose nutrient-dense foods like fruits, veggies, lean proteins, whole grains, and water, which can help protect their dental health and reduce the risk of dental disease.
Say Yes to Smart Snacking
One of the biggest trouble spots for many people is snacking. When you’re hungry between meals, you might be tempted to grab something from a vending machine or reach for a quick but starchy snack, like potato chips. Unfortunately, these kinds of foods tend to be high in starches and simple sugars. Any sugar can cause tooth decay, and the higher the sugar content, the more damage the product can do.
“No added sugar” foods and drinks aren’t necessarily safe. Many foods are labeled as “sugar-free” because they contain no added sugar but are still high in carbohydrates. Sugar-free drinks can still be highly acidic too, which can cause dental erosion.
While it might be best to choose regular meals and skip the snacks, you don’t have to eliminate snacking altogether to protect your smile. You simply need to snack wisely. Choose raw vegetables, cheese, unsweetened yogurt, and nuts. Avoid dried fruits, which can be particularly high in sugar, and fruit juices, which are high in both sugar and acid.
Monitor the Micros
When watching your diet, you’re likely noting the macronutrients, or the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, that you’re consuming. When it comes to your smile health, however, the micronutrients also matter. Your teeth and gums depend on several critical vitamins and minerals to stay healthy, including:
Calcium helps build strong bones. When it comes to your smile, it can strengthen your jawbone and harden your dental enamel. Look for dairy products, fortified plant milk, broccoli, carrots, and sardines with bones.
Sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is essential for proper calcium absorption and can boost bone mineral density. You can get more vitamin D by spending a little time outside each day, but you can also get it in your diet through fatty fish, portobello mushrooms, and fortified orange juice and dairy products.
This mineral works like vitamin D to help protect bone mineral density. Bananas, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, lima beans, avocados, prunes, and tomatoes are all good sources of potassium.
Phosphorus works with calcium, too, to help build dental enamel. You can get phosphorus in a variety of foods, including soybeans, lentils, salmon, tuna, shrimp, cheese, beef, and pork.
Unlike other minerals and vitamins that help strengthen teeth, vitamin K acts as a protective factor to prevent the breakdown of bone. Furthermore, when you’re low on vitamin K, your body’s healing process can be delayed, which puts your gums at risk. Get more vitamin K in your diet through dark and leafy greens and other green veggies, like brussels sprouts and broccoli.
This vitamin has critical healing aspects for the soft tissues of your mouth, promoting gum health and protecting against the earliest stages of gum disease. Get more vitamin C in your diet through citrus fruits, strawberries, potatoes, and dark and leafy greens.
Drink to Your Dental Health
Your beverage choices can also affect your smile. Wine and coffee can stain teeth, and sugar-sweetened beverages can cause cavities and enamel erosion. Sugar-free drinks are not necessarily a better choice, particularly if they are high in citric acid, which erodes teeth.
The best option for your smile is fluoridated water. Water is fast and easy, and it flushes away food particles that can cause bad breath and feed oral bacteria. More importantly, it contains no sugar and is not acidic, which means it does not hurt your teeth. If fluoride is added or naturally occurring in the water, it can even help improve your dental health by strengthening your enamel.
Plain water is your best bet, but if you are bored with the flavor or simply don’t like it, you might wonder if you can switch it up safely. The good news is that yes, you can enjoy water alternatives with a few caveats. Sparkling water is a little more acidic than tap water but can be safely enjoyed in moderation as long as it does not have excess sugar or acid. You can also try infused waters, which add simple flavorings, such as mint leaves or cucumber slices, without sugar or excessive acid.
The Link between Oral Health and General Health
Research has proven a link between dental and overall health. Your smile might even give indications into the state of your general health. Several health conditions have early symptoms that show up in the mouth, including diabetes and Sjogren’s syndrome. In other cases, dental diseases can increase the risk of certain health issues, including diabetes, dementia, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.
The entryway for your respiratory and digestive systems, your mouth is also home to numerous bacteria. Good dental hygiene is your first line of defense against bacteria and infection, but a healthy diet is also important. A balanced diet nourishes your teeth and gums and can keep your immune system in peak disease-fighting condition.
Skip the sugary snacks and acidic drinks and instead opt for low-fat cheese, raw veggies, or a handful of nuts. Foods that are nutrient-dense, low in starch, and free from added sugars are your best bets both for your smile and your waistline.
Our dentist in Owings Mills can help you protect your smile with a dental care regimen designed specifically for you. Contact us today to find out more or to schedule your appointment.