Your diet and oral health

20th May 2013 by

Diet is a major aetiological factor for dental decay (caries) and enamel erosion, and what you eat not only impacts on the development of your teeth but also your resistance to many oral conditions, including gum diseases and oral cancer.

In 2003 the World Health Organization produced dietary recommendations to promote the increased consumption of fruits and vegetables and wholegrain foods for the prevention of a number of chronic conditions, including obesity, cardio vascular disease, cancer and diabetes.

What about carbonated, sugary drinks. These liquids not only have a high sugar content that causes cavities but the bubbles make them very acidic. The acid can dissolve your teeth making them very sensitive and can cause permanent damage. Diet drinks are slightly better as they don’t have the sugar but are still very acidic.

Are Sports drinks or energy bars any better? They are full of sugar and the drinks are also acidic, often worse than sugary fizzy drinks.

As always, the key thing to remember is ‘everything in moderation’. It is important to be aware of what we are eating and drinking during the day. The frequency of intake of acids is the most important. Try to reduce the number of acidic attacks and you can reduce the chance of your teeth being damaged. Try and eat acidic foods as part of a meal so other foods can help neutralise the acid in your mouth.

It is best to chew chewing gum or suck mints straight after a meal to help neutralise the acid and then brush your teeth as soon as you can to remove any stain before it binds. Try using sugar free ones containing Xylitol. Unlike sugar, bacteria cannot digest Xylitol, so it is not encouraged to continue multiplying – bacteria can be reduced by as much as 90% to minimise the resulting acid onslaught significantly. Gum or mints which contain Xylitol will cause extra saliva production, which reduces the formation of acid and plaque even further. In addition, Xylitol helps to prevent bacteria from sticking to the teeth, so that it does not get a chance to cause harmful plaque.

Use water as a mouthwas – Water makes the perfect rinse to clear sugars and acids from your teeth after eating or drinking.

Brush well – I recommend that you brush for two minutes twice daily with a good quality daily fluoride toothpaste.

I advise looking in the mirror at least once a week whilst brushing. Watching your brushing style can help to make sure you are reaching your back teeth and cleaning at the margin where the gums meet the teeth. Successful brushing is all about removing plaque, and a lengthy brush does not necessarily mean you do a better job. Look after your teeth and they will look after you!

A dental check-up may be especially important if:
  • Your gums bleed when you brush or floss.
  • Have heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease or osteoporosis.
  • Are thinking of becoming pregnant.
  • Have a family member with gum disease. Research suggests that the bacteria that cause gum disease can pass through saliva. This means the common contact of saliva in families puts children and couples at risk for contracting the gum disease of another family member.

Sugars remain a threat to dental health and dietary fluoride provides lifelong protection against decay. Oral health should not be viewed in isolation from general health; the type of diet that protects against major conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer will also protect against dental caries.

A healthy mouth allow us to speak and smile; sigh and kiss; smell, taste, touch, chew and swallow; and convey our feelings and emotions through facial expressions. Protect it and visit your dentist regularly.

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