Good nutrition is essential for good health, and that includes the health of your teeth.
How does diet affect oral health?
Tooth decay and cavities are caused by acid that is produced by interactions between oral bacteria and food deposits left on your teeth. Certain foods - especially sugary, starchy, and sticky snacks- are linked to higher levels of such acid-producing bacteria. Additionally, poor nutrition can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to other health problems, including gum disease.
What vitamins and minerals are important for oral health?
Your teeth and jaws are made mostly of calcium, which helps protect and rebuild your tooth enamel. Not getting enough calcium puts you at risk for gum disease and tooth decay, so make sure to eat calcium rich foods like beans, greens, and dairy. Research has shown that dairy products not only provide calcium but also may reduce your risk of cavities.
Vitamin D (found in milk, eggs, and fish) also is an important nutrient because it helps your body absorb calcium. A vitamin D deficiency can lead to burning mouth syndrome, a painful condition in which patients feel a scalding sensation in the tongue, lips, palate, or throughout mouth. To further protect your enamel, seek out foods containing phosphorous (like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, and eggs) and vitamin A (like sweet potatoes, liver, and spinach).
Vitamin C (found in oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, kiwi, and red and green peppers) promote healthy gums and quick healing of wounds. A severe lack of it could result in bleeding gums or loose teeth. Other nutrients that promote oral health include vitamin B3 (found in chicken and fish), vitamin B2 and B12 (found in pasta, bagels, spinach, and almonds), and iron (found in liver, red meat, bran cereal, and nuts).
What foods are bad for oral health?
Sugar fuels the bacteria that produce acid and cause tooth decay, so avoid excessive intake of sugary foods and beverages like candy, desserts, fruit and vegetable juices, and regular soda. Sugar-free diet soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks are also bad for your teeth, as all these contain acid that can cause tooth erosion.
Carbohydrates like chips, bread, pasta, or crackers also promote acid-causing bacteria, so they be just as harmful to your teeth as sugar. When you eat carbohydrates, eats them as part of a meal rather than by themselves, because combinations of foods (like cheese and crackers) can help neutralize acids.
You should also avoid sticky, chewy foods like raisins, granola bars, jelly beans, caramel, honey, and syrup. It's difficult for saliva to wash away these foods, so they can cling to the teeth and cause decay.