Dentists believe that people can prevent two of the most common oral diseases today, tooth decay and periodontal disease, by simply improving their diet.
Decay results when the hard tissues are destroyed by acid products from bacteria. Although poor nutrition does not directly cause periodontal disease, many researchers believe that the disease progresses faster and is more severe in patients whose diet does not supply the necessary nutrients. Poor nutrition can suppress your entire immune system, increasing your vulnerability to many disorders. People with lowered immune systems have been shown to be at higher risk for periodontal disease.
Studies are showing that dental disease is just as related to overeating as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and hypertension.
Children’s nutrition and teeth
A healthy diet is a balanced diet that naturally supplies all the nutrients your child needs to grow. This includes fruits and vegetables, breads and cereals, milk and dairy products, meat, fish and eggs.
A balanced diet is essential for healthy gum tissue around the teeth. A diet high in certain kinds of carbohydrates, such as sugar and starches, may place your child at extra risk of tooth decay. Harmful starchy foods include breads, crackers, pasta, and such snacks as pretzels and potato chips. Even fruits, a few vegetables, and most milk products contain at least one type of sugar. A peanut butter and jam sandwich for example, not only has sugar in the jam, but may have sugar added to the peanut butter. Sugar is also added to such condiments like mustard and salad dressings.
Some dentists believe that kids who consume too much soft drink and not enough nutritional beverages are prone to tooth decay in addition to serious ailments later in life, such as diabetes and osteoporosis. Drinking carbonated soft drinks regularly can contribute to the erosion of tooth enamel. Soft drinks contain sticky sugars that bacteria in our mouths use as an energy source. They break down into acids and adhere to tooth surfaces. Using a straw when drinking soft drinks can help keep sugar away from teeth.
Remind your children to rinse their mouths with water after meals, especially during school, in order to leave their teeth free of sugar and acid.
A balanced diet does not ensure that your child is getting enough fluoride. If you live in a community that does not have fluoridated water or an ideal amount of naturally occurring fluoride in your well water, your child may need a fluoride supplement. Be careful though. Too much fluoride can be just as bad as too little fluoride.
The following, while high in nutrition, are not good for your children’s teeth:
- Chocolate milk
- Ice cream
- Dried fruit snacks
- Milk shakes
- Granola bars
And at all costs, avoid these kinds of snacks between meals unless your child brushes immediately afterward:
- Gummy bears and other lollies
- Chocolate bars
- Fruit roll ups
Adult nutrition and teeth
Eat a well-balanced diet; use moderation and choose a variety of foods. The important foods to choose include those from the four basic food groups: fruits and vegetables, breads and cereals, milk and dairy products, meat, chicken, fish, or beans. And remember that so-called ‘fad diets’ often restrict or eliminate entire food groups, possibly leading to serious vitamin or mineral deficiencies.
Foods that cling to your teeth promote tooth decay. When snacking, try to avoid soft, sweet, sticky foods, such as cakes, lollies, and dried fruits. Better choices include nuts, raw vegetables, plain yoghurt, cheese, and sugarless gum or lollies.
When you eat foods such as crackers, biscuits and chips, include them as part of your meal, instead of by themselves. Believe it or not, some combinations of foods can actually neutralize harmful acids in the mouth and inhibit tooth decay.