The Link Between Nutrition and Oral Health

Dr. Allen Sun of Laurentian Dental Centre Kitchener

Dr. Allen Sun, Laurentian Dental, Kitchener

Having excellent oral health doesn’t mean just brushing, flossing and visiting the dentist regularly – it’s also connected to proper nutrition. Eating a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet provides your body with the immunity to fight infections that could contribute to periodontal disease, a leading cause of adult tooth loss.

The Mouth Body Connection

According to the CDA, over 47% of people over the age of 30 suffer from periodontal disease. With that number increasing as we age, nearly 70% of adults over 65 are diagnosed with periodontitis causing tooth loss, and in some studies, bad bacteria travelling to organs like the heart and lungs.

Periodontitis isn’t the only sign of poor oral health, sudden increased sensitivity to hot or cold can signal an infection near the root of the tooth known as a dental abscess that may require root canal treatment. Abscesses can be life-threatening and require immediate care, other warning signs include fever, tenderness in your lymph nodes, painful toothache, or facial swelling.

Couple is cooking healthy simple food at home in the kitchen

Healthy eating makes for healthy smiles!

Your Enamel Under Attack

Eating sugary, processed foods causes the naturally-occurring bacteria in your mouth to feed on the sugars, forming bacteria clusters. These clusters are protected by a layer of plaque and excrete highly acidic waste onto your teeth destroying enamel and causing cavities.

There are other factors involved for a cavity to happen including the overall condition of what’s called your oral microbiome or – the balance of good to bad bacteria in your mouth, your mouth’s PH levels and quality of saliva.

Improving Your Diet to Improve Mouth Health

Improving your diet can improve your oral health. Before reaching for soda or juice, opt for water to avoid the harmful combination of acid and sugar in so many drinks. Aside from water being our favorite way to stay hydrated and mouth healthy with zero damage to your teeth, milk is also a good choice for keeping teeth strong.

Just because a beverage isn’t carbonated doesn’t mean it’s ok for your enamel, other options like sports drinks are still acidic often with a high sugar content. If you’re drinking a beverage other than water, it’s best to have it with a meal, swishing your mouth with water afterward to cut down on acidity.

“Because acidic foods and drinks can soften your enamel, it’s best to wait at least 30 minutes after eating or drinking before brushing.”

Foods that are high in carbohydrates, starches, and sugar also contribute to the production of plaque acids that can attack your enamel. Eventually breaking down enamel and forming cavities. It doesn’t mean you have to give up all your favorite carbs, but try eating them during your main meals when saliva production rises and helps rinse food and acids from your mouth.

Sugar in drinks and food all contribute to tooth decay, and sugar is in so many things, even some food that’s necessary to a healthy diet. It’s best to choose the lowest sugar option whenever possible and avoid any unnecessary added sugars.

Nutrient Super-Defenders

When your microbiome is balanced, and you’re consuming healthy foods and avoiding or cutting back on acidic foods and drinks, it’s possible to prevent new cavities and even reverse smaller ones. A healthy body will naturally fight off offenders like gum disease. But some nutrients are especially effective in helping defend.

Eating foods that nourish your oral microbiome ensure you’re armed with the best defense system. Opt for animal proteins such as chicken skin and grass-fed beef for its collagen content, and salmon or other oily fish such as mackerel for rich omega-3’s. And try adding some of these super-defenders to your diet:

Turmeric root and powder

Turmeric

This inflammation-fighting wonder not only helps digestion, improves symptoms of arthritis and more but it also supports a healthy mouth.

Mixed tree nuts and seeds

Nuts and Seeds

Try adding more seeds and nuts that are high in omega 3’s to your diet including pistachios, macadamias, and sesame seeds.

Fresh forest edible mushrooms

Mushrooms

The shiitake mushroom is especially excellent for its secret weapon lentinan – a rare polysaccharide that attacks harmful bacteria and leaves the good kind alone.

Fresh floret of broccli

Broccoli

Adding broccoli to your diet provides a nutrient dense delivery of magnesium, iron, calcium, selenium, niacin, vitamins B1 and C – particularly important in fighting off gum disease.

Bowl of fermented kimichi full of probiotics

Fermented Foods

Foods containing probiotics such as kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut support the good bacteria in your mouth and help to reduce plaque buildup and gingivitis.

Fresh sliced sweet potato

Sweet Potatoes

Full of beta-carotene – especially great for oral health and an essential nutrient in fighting gum disease, reducing inflammation, and rich in Vitamins A, C, B6, and Manganese.

Fresh red, yellow and orange bell peppers

Bell Peppers

Go for the red and green variety of bell peppers to top up on vitamin C and fight gum disease.

Cup of freshly brewed green tea

Green Tea

High in gum disease fighting catechins, green tea has been found to have an inverse relationship with periodontal disease. Cheers to that.

Keeping Teeth Healthy

With a good routine of flossing, brushing and regular checkups, we can detect early signs of tooth decay making it easier to correct and reverse. Improving your diet and swapping sugary drinks for more water and cutting back on too many starchy sugary snacks between meals can improve the health of your mouth. For now, and years to come.

Yours for better dental health,

Put Your Best Smile Forward!

Visit Laurentian Dental Today for Your Optimal Dental Health.