We are open - safety is our top priority!
Posted on: February 27, 2023
Four Nutrition Tips to Help You Optimize Your Dental Health
You visit your dentist in Owings Mills every six months. You brush twice a day and floss every night before bed.
Is there anything else you should be doing to keep your teeth and gums healthy?
The choices you make about what you eat and drink every day have an enormous impact on your dental health. When you snack, what you snack on, whether you’re getting the recommended amount of certain nutrients, and even how much water you drink can make the difference between a healthy smile and a higher risk for cavities and gum disease.
Understanding the Oral-Systemic Connection
At our dental office in Owings Mills, we value our patients’ health—both oral and general. It’s no secret that nutrition affects the way your body functions. Snacking too often and eating foods with minimal nutritional value are connected with conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Skipping out on vegetables and not getting plenty of water slows your digestion and makes going to the bathroom uncomfortable and difficult.
These issues also impact your dental health. This concept is known as the “oral-systemic connection.” For instance, there’s a link between heart disease and gum disease. While the exact mechanism is unclear, if you have heart disease, your risk for gum disease goes up—and vice versa. You can understand now why we put such an emphasis on flossing!
In addition to the ways in which your diet affects your overall health and the impact that has on your dental health, your diet also directly impacts your teeth and gums. Your teeth, just like your internal bones, need certain minerals and vitamins to stay strong and avoid damage, and the soft tissues of your mouth, your mucus membranes, need proper hydration and other nutrients to function at their best and help ward off gum disease.
These four tips—small changes you can make to your daily dietary habits—can go a long way in improving both your overall health and the health of your smile.
Tip 1—Limit your snacking throughout the day
We all lead busy lives, and we know how tempting it can be to grab small snacks here and there, especially when you’re on the go, and how small treats can feel rewarding when you’ve had a hard day. We agree, by the way—you do deserve a reward for how hard you work! However, you might want to pick another self-care treat since frequent snacking can increase your risk for both dental decay and gum disease.
When you eat, the sugars in your food mix with saliva and bacteria to create sticky plaque, which clings to your enamel. The bacteria in the plaque produce acid, which erodes your enamel, causing the small holes we know as cavities. When plaque forms at the gum line, your gums become irritated and more prone to bacterial infection, a condition known as gingivitis, or gum disease.
Snacking throughout the day keeps this process constantly going, so it’s best to keep it to two planned snacks a day.
Tip 2—Drink plenty of water
If you’re missing reaching for a snack throughout the day, try substituting a glass of water instead! Drinking water helps to rinse away bacteria and acid from your teeth, protecting your enamel and keeping strong and healthy.
Additionally, water helps hydrate your mucus membranes, the soft tissues of your mouth, protecting them from becoming dry. A chronic dry mouth increases the risk of dental decay as well as gum disease. If your mouth doesn’t feel well-hydrated, please call our dental office in Owings Mills to schedule a visit so we can help you out.
Water has another benefit as well—most areas of the U.S. have added fluoride to their water supply. In other words, when you drink water from the tap, you are also bathing your teeth in a mineral that helps strengthen your enamel as well as prevent and even reverse cavities. Studies have shown a significant reduction in dental decay in areas with fluoridated water, which makes dentists very happy!
Tip 3—Eat foods rich in smile-friendly vitamins and minerals
Fluoride isn’t the only mineral your teeth need. Several minerals and vitamins are critical for bone health, and remember—your teeth are bones. Calcium is required for your body to rebuild your bone tissue and keep it strong while vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium (which is why vitamin D is often added to foods that are naturally high in calcium, like dairy). Certain vitamins are important for good gum health, too. For instance, vitamin C is a well-known antioxidant that boosts your immune system and helps protect against infections like gum disease.
For healthy teeth and gums, be sure to include these vitamins and minerals in your diet:
- Calcium, found in dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt
- Phosphate, found in seafood, poultry, and beef
- Magnesium, found in many nuts and seeds, whole grains, and fatty fish
- Selenium, found in fatty fish, poultry, beef, and whole grains
- Zinc, found in shellfish, poultry, and beef
- Vitamin A, found in fatty fish, dairy, eggs, and yellow or orange produce
- Vitamin C, found in citrus, tomatoes, and cruciferous vegetables
- Vitamin D, found in fortified dairy, mushrooms, and fatty fish
- Vitamin K2, found in cheese, fermented food like sauerkraut and natto (soybeans), seafood, and poultry
Tip 4—Eat several servings of fruits and vegetables every day
In addition to the numerous benefits to your overall health that fruits and vegetables provide, produce is also important for good dental health. Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet provides you with more opportunities to get several of the important vitamins and minerals listed above—especially vitamins A and C.
Additionally, the structure of many fruits and vegetables makes them a great choice for good oral health. Raw crunchy fruits and vegetables, like carrots, celery, and apples, act like tooth scrubbers, whisking away plaque as you chew through their hard fibers. Most fruits and vegetables are high in water content as well, so you also get the same benefit you would from drinking water.
Visit Our Dental Office in Owings Mills for More Tips
Would you like more advice to help you keep your smile shining? Call our office to schedule a visit. Your dentist is always happy to talk to you and provide tips and strategies so you can have a happy, healthy smile.