While nutrition and diet are closely related, they differ in so many ways. Nutrition refers to the quality of sustenance you consume. On the other hand, diet refers to the quantity of food and drink you regularly consume.
Regardless of what they mean, these two are essential to our overall health. For instance, the quantity and quality of your daily food intake will either positively or negatively affect your oral health. It means that understanding their role in our oral health will help us know which foods to eat and which to avoid.
Diet, Nutrition, and Oral Health: How Are They Related?
Diet and nutrition greatly influence oral health. Nutrition-wise, if you regularly eat the right foods, you have a lower chance of developing oral health problems like cavities, gum disease, and more. On the other hand, if coupled with poor oral hygiene, eating less healthy foods will surely result in many oral health problems. That’s because, without the proper nutrients, your gum and teeth won’t be able to cope with the demands of their “daily grinds,” and they won’t be able to build protection against many oral diseases.
Your diet, or the quantity of food and drink you consume daily, also affects your oral health. Snacking on highly processed, sweet, or salty snacks will promote the growth of harmful bacteria. According to oral health care experts at the American Dental Association, you should limit snacking; if you just can’t help yourself, choose healthier options and be mindful of how much you consume.
Furthermore, foods eaten as part of a meal also do less damage than those eaten as snacks. You produce more saliva when you eat meals, which helps neutralize your mouth’s acidity and wash down the food debris away that can cause cavities and damage teeth.
On the flip side, your oral health can influence your diet and nutrition too. A missing tooth, a swollen gum, or a toothache, for instance, can prevent you from eating nutritious foods. Worse, you may even resort to eating junk foods because they’re easier to chew. To give you an idea, someone with a toothache would probably choose to eat cheese puffs for snacks over much healthier options like nuts.
Best Foods for Your Teeth
Eating any of these will surely benefit your oral health.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals that your teeth need for remineralization, strengthening their structure. Aside from helping clean your teeth, green leafy vegetables also nourish the good bacteria in your mouth, especially the nitrite-producing ones.
Dark or Unsweetened Chocolate
A study has shown that the polyphenols found in cacao nibs can kill cavity-causing bacteria and shield your teeth from plaque. Researchers also found in a 2019 study that a cocoa bean mouth rinse effectively kills S. mutans — a bacteria that causes cavities — like regular mouthwash. It also didn’t harm other beneficial bacteria in the oral microbiome.
Dairy products like cheese, yogurt, and milk help keep your teeth healthy. They are low in sugar but rich in calcium, an important nutrient that helps keep your bones healthy and teeth strong. Dairy products have phosphates and casein that help maintain tooth enamel and balance mouth pH. They also increase saliva production, which helps clean out harmful bacteria from your mouth.
In addition, dairy products from grass-fed cows have Vitamin K2, a vital but little-known vitamin good for your teeth. Most mammals can convert Vitamin K1 to K2 in their digestive systems, but humans don’t have the necessary enzyme. Grass-fed dairy-producing mammals are richer in Vitamin K2 because the chlorophyll they consume activates these enzymes.
Fatty fish is known to have high Vitamin D content. It works with Vitamins A and B2 to strengthen enamel from the inside, reducing the risk of tooth decay. Fatty fish is also rich in Omega-3, which is also good for gum health.
Oranges and Grapefruit
Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit are acidic, but eating them in moderation is good for your whole body. They are rich in Vitamin C, which helps strengthen blood vessels and connective tissues in your mouth. It also slows down gum inflammation development, which could lead to gum disease.
Worst Foods for Your Teeth
Avoid these foods. But if you can’t, practice good oral hygiene when you consume them:
Acid is your teeth’s number one enemy, and eating anything that provides cavity-causing bacteria will worsen your teeth problems. Candies and sweets are often the main sources of these harmful sugars. They can stick to your teeth, and hard candies can even crack them. Sucking on them increases your teeth’s exposure to sugar.
If you have to have some, choose the ones you can eat in one go, and don’t let them stay in your mouth too long. Also, after eating sweets, it would help to drink lots of water to wash away the bad bacteria.
Saltines and goldfish crackers are perhaps worse than candies. They are made from highly-process starch, fermentable, and break down fast, leaving behind sugar that nourishes pathogenic bacteria. The bacteria then produce acids that land on your teeth, causing tooth decay and plaque buildup. They also stick to your teeth, allowing bacteria to consume them longer.
Try cracker brands made from nuts and seeds instead of wheat if you’re craving crackers but want to keep your teeth safe.
Not all bread is good for you. Your saliva converts the starch in your bread into sugar when you chew on it, turning it into a sticky, paste-like substance that sticks to your teeth and the spaces between them.
If you want bread, choose whole wheat instead. It has less sugar and doesn’t easily break down.
Dried fruits may sound healthy, but they’re not. They’ve already been stripped of their water and nutrients, leaving behind a sticky dried version that adds sugar to your oral microbiome. Combining their high sugar content with their acidity will give you cavities.
Who wouldn’t find the crunchiness of a potato chip satisfying? This crunch is due to the chip’s starch content, which turns into sugar trapped between your teeth and feeds the bacteria in your mouth.
Aside from oral hygiene, you should also consider the foods you eat to keep your teeth healthy. Eat more greens, dairy products, fatty fish, and some citrus fruits for better and healthier teeth. On the other hand, avoid eating too many sweets, chips, dried fruit, and bread.
Experience better oral health today.
Diet, nutrition, and oral health go hand in hand, so only seek expert advice. And if you’re looking for dentists in Avon, CO, we can help you find them. Our partner dentists can help you achieve better oral health with expert oral care tips and superb dental services. Give us a call today.