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Posted on: March 26, 2023
The Importance of a Smile-Friendly Diet
Dental health is about more than just a pretty smile. Your oral health is a key factor in your general health and can affect your overall quality of life. Most dental problems are largely preventable with good dental care and good nutrition. Unfortunately, untreated tooth decay continues to be the most common health problem around the world, causing pain, infection, lost teeth, lost school and work days, and more.
At our dental office in Lake Katrine, we can help you design a dental health treatment plan to protect your smile throughout your life. A healthy smile is critical no matter how old you are. Functional, pain-free teeth and gums are essential for speaking clearly, smiling confidently, and eating a balanced diet. A balanced diet is also essential for a healthy smile.
The Link between Diet and Dental Health
A healthy diet is important for a healthy body, but it is also essential for a healthy smile. Choosing the right foods to support dental health can help you reduce the risk of tooth decay and avoid gingivitis. This means eating a balanced diet with minimally processed foods and simple sugars.
Look for foods with calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and other mineral which all help protect and strengthen dental enamel. Enamel is the hard, crystalline layer of the tooth. The hardest structure in the human body, dental enamel protects the inner structures of the tooth, but it can be damaged by acids in the foods we eat. Acids are also produced by the oral bacteria contained in plaque. By eating a mineral-rich diet, we can counteract some of this damage and fight to keep our teeth strong and healthy. Foods that are high in calcium and other minerals include cheese and other dairy products, dark and leafy greens, almonds, meat, poultry, fish, and eggs.
Fruits and vegetables are also good for your teeth. Produce is high in fiber and water, which mechanically cleans teeth and stimulates saliva flow. This has the effect of rinsing food debris and acids away from your teeth. Fruits and veggies are also excellent sources of many of the vitamins your gums need to stay strong and healthy, like vitamins A and C. Brighter-colored veggies and fruits are often the best sources of vitamins. Bell peppers, strawberries, dark and leafy greens, melon, kiwis, tomatoes, cruciferous veggies, and carrots are all great choices.
Drinks Matter Too
When it comes to your teeth and gums, it’s not just about what you eat. What you drink matters, too. Some drinks, like wine and coffee, can stain your teeth. Energy drinks, soft drinks, and juice can increase the risk of acid erosion. What is the best drink, then, for your dental health? Plain water is a great option.
Water, and especially water with fluoride added, is clean, refreshing, and fights dry mouth. The added fluoride strengthens enamel and helps protect against tooth decay. Drinking fluoridated water is a fast, easy, and affordable way to combat dental problems.
Sparkling water is an increasingly popular option for those who aren’t fans of plain water. Adding carbonation to water can increase its acidity somewhat, but in moderation, sparkling water is fine to drink, especially if it has little or no sugar or acid added. You should also not use sparkling water as a replacement for fluoridated water.
Snacking and Your Smile
Three meals a day might not be enough to meet your nutritional or hunger needs, but your snack choices can affect your smile too. What you eat and how often you eat can make a big difference in your dental health.
Each day, a sticky biofilm called plaque accumulates on your teeth. Oral bacteria live in plaque, and the bacteria use the sugars in the foods you eat as energy. The bacteria then release acids that attack the enamel on your teeth. Acid attacks can last 20 to 30 minutes after each meal or snack.
If you snack frequently or spend your days sipping sugar-sweetened beverages, your teeth could be exposed to all-day acid attacks with little or no time to recover. The best way to minimize the risk is to limit your snacks and make good snack choices: low-fat cheese, unsweetened yogurt, veggie sticks and hummus, or a handful of nuts. Instead of drinking sugar-sweetened beverages, opt for water between meals.
Add some flavor to your water with a few slices of cucumber or a sprig of mint. Green tea can also be a good option. Green tea has been shown to have some protective effects against oral bacteria and may be anti-inflammatory. For the best results, skip the sugar or honey and drink your tea plain.
Dental and General Health: What You Need to Know
Your body’s health and your smile’s health are intimately connected. When you are missing teeth or have dental pain, you might not be able to eat the balanced diet you need for good health. Similarly, insufficient nutrition can increase your risk for a variety of dental health problems, including cavities, acid erosion, and gum disease.
Good nutrition can be key in fighting inflammation, a major factor in the development of gum disease. Untreated gum disease can lead to serious dental problems, including tooth loss and bone loss, and it can increase your risk for a variety of general health issues ranging from obesity and depression to cardiovascular disease and pregnancy complications.
The relationship between oral health and overall health is proven and bidirectional. We know your dental health affects your body, and we also know that many health conditions can increase the risk of dental problems. Our dentist in Lake Katrine can help you better understand your personal risk factors and develop a treatment plan to preserve your smile health and better maintain your overall health through a combination of good dental care, at-home hygiene, and healthy nutrition. Call us today to learn more or schedule your appointment with our team.