While we all recognize that our overall health is greatly impacted by our nutrition, something we may not give a lot of thought to is the connection between our oral health and the things that we eat. Not only is the wellness of our body as whole reflected in the health of our oral tissues, but the health of our teeth and gums can dramatically impact the health of our entire body. How so?
The food we eat supplies the nutrients that the body, bones, teeth and gums need to renew tissues and help fight infection and disease. Without a regular intake of healthful foods supplying these necessary nutrients, your teeth and gums can become more susceptible to decay and gum disease. Today’s hectic lifestyles, with fast foods, fad diets, and large amounts of sugar and energy drinks, can have repercussions, not just for your body but also specifically for your mouth. Foods high in sugars and starches increase the production of acids that can erode and weaken the enamel of your teeth and can eventually cause tooth decay.
While foods that are high in sugars and starches have been shown to have negative effects on overall health and oral health, there are, conversely, also foods that have a definite positive effect on the body as a whole, and have been shown to have a directly positive effect on the mouth. Foods that stimulate saliva production feature at the forefront, as they have a neutralizing effect on acid and can contribute to an effective remineralization of the tooth’s surface.
Some examples of such foods? Cheese is low in sugar and acid and high in calcium, making it a good choice. It also contains casein, a protein found in milk that is particularly useful for fortifying the tooth’s surface. Another healthful provider of casein is yogurt, which also contains calcium and phosphates that help to remineralize the teeth.
Raw, fresh veggies are also very good for teeth because their fibrous nature requires a great amount of chewing, which causes an abundance of saliva. High in vitamins and nutrients and they are also an ideal contributor to good health over all. Fresh fruit is another good option because, like veggies, its fibrous nature stimulates saliva production.
It is important to remember that snacking without brushing through the day should be avoided. Even foods that are better for teeth still contribute to plaque and acid formation if left sitting on the teeth for long periods. Brushing and flossing is still the key component to a healthy mouth.
Xylitol is a safe and effective artificial sweetener that has an added bonus when it comes to dental health. The sugar replacement, found in many sugar-free gums and mints, is helpful because it prevents harmful bacteria in plaque from metabolizing sugar, thus generating harmful acids that degrade tooth enamel. It therefore acts as an anti-sugar of sorts — doing exactly the opposite of what sucrose can do, which is feed the bacteria that leads to tooth decay and gum disease.
While all this is fine and good, is it true that your oral health really has an impact on your over all well-being? In short, yes. Cavities and gum disease have been linked to more serious conditions. Untreated cavities can also be painful and lead to serious infections. Studies are also currently examining whether the link between poor oral health and heart disease and between poor oral health and women delivering pre-term, low birth rate babies. If teeth are lost prematurely to decay or periodontal disease, the amount and quality of fresh, crunchy, healthy foods you can eat is decreased which has long term health consequences.
Healthy teeth and a healthy body go hand in hand. You can’t eat healthy foods without healthy teeth and gums, and healthy food choices promote healthy teeth! For further input as to how to ensure you maintain your oral health at its optimum, please feel free to consult with your dentist at North Burnaby Dental Group.