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Posted on: March 26, 2023
A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Smile
Dental health and general health are closely linked, and what you eat can affect your smile in a variety of ways. You might already know that too much sugar can put you at risk of tooth decay, but other dietary factors can play a role in the development of other dental problems, including enamel erosion, as well as general health issues.
Brushing and flossing form the foundation of a healthy smile, but they might not be enough to protect you from all dental problems. Good nutritional choices can also help you reduce your risk of serious dental disease, including cavities, enamel erosion, and gum disease. Our dentist in Sweetwater can help you learn more about how a healthy diet with the right balance of micro- and macro-nutrients can keep you smiling and healthy.
The Link between Snacks and Cavities
Tooth decay is the most common disease worldwide. Caused by the bacteria found in plaque, tooth decay affects people of all ages and from all walks of life.
Plaque is a sticky biofilm that is fed by sugar. The bacteria that live within it create acids, which decay dental enamel. If the acids wear down the enamel faster than it can be restored through remineralization, a cavity lesion forms. Once you have a cavity, the structure of the tooth is permanently altered and weakened. It must be restored with a dental filling to limit the risk of further harm.
When it comes to cavities and demineralization, it’s not just about what you eat but also when you eat. Frequent snacking might not give your teeth enough time to recover from the acid attacks that can last up to 20 minutes after each sweet snack or sugary drink. To keep your smile at its healthiest, limit snacking, and choose snacks that are low in added sugar. Skip sugar-sweetened beverages entirely and opt instead for water whenever possible.
Brush and floss twice daily to remove any plaque that has accumulated throughout the day.
Minerals for Stronger Teeth
Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are the macronutrients you need for well-being, but your body also needs micronutrients or vitamins and minerals. Certain minerals can help keep your teeth and bones strong, which can make your smile less vulnerable to tooth decay.
Calcium is the big one. You might already know that you need calcium for strong bones, but you also need it for your teeth, which are a type of bone. Your body uses calcium to create the mineralized compound that makes up dental enamel, the hard crystalline structure that protects the sensitive inner part of your teeth. If you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, your body might not be able to repair tooth and bone structure fast enough, and the lost tissue will result in cavities, damage, and loose teeth. Good sources of calcium include dairy products, calcium-fortified orange juice, edamame, canned sardines with bones, and almonds. Vitamin D can help you absorb calcium more effectively, so make sure to choose fortified dairy and juice products or get a little time in the sun each day.
Phosphorus is another essential tooth- and bone-building mineral. Without phosphorus, your teeth may become brittle and likely to chip. Good sources of phosphorus include beef, pork, lentils, soybeans, cheese, and pumpkin seeds.
Magnesium works alongside calcium to strengthen teeth. You can find magnesium in dark and leafy greens, corn, brown rice, legumes, nuts, and many whole grains.
Vital Vitamins for a Bright Smile
Minerals help keep your teeth strong while vitamins can support gum health. Vitamin C, which is found in citrus fruits, bell peppers, and strawberries, is a potent antioxidant that can strengthen your gums and other oral soft tissues. It may also help protect against gingivitis and stimulate your immune function.
Vitamin A is also a dental health powerhouse. It helps your body create white blood cells to counteract inflammation and infection, which means that it’s good for gum health. You can get more vitamin A in your diet through dark and leafy greens, carrots, pumpkin, asparagus, fish oil, and liver.
Finally, vitamin K can help keep both teeth and gums strong through its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It can support healing, which is especially helpful for those with early stages of gum disease. Vitamin K is found in green veggies like spinach, carrots, olive oil, and liver.
About two-thirds of us sip sugar-sweetened beverages at least once a day. Sugary drinks aren’t good for our waistlines or our hearts, but they’re also bad for our teeth. When your teeth are constantly bathed in sugary liquid, the bacteria in plaque will continually churn out more acid. You will be risking acid erosion, increased sensitivity, and weakened enamel.
Juice is not necessarily a good alternative. While made from fruit, most juice is still full of sugar and acid. Similarly, diet soft drinks might not have sugar, but they are high in acids that can wear down the enamel on your teeth.
The next time you’re thirsty, reach for water. When you drink fluoridated water, you can strengthen your teeth and quench your thirst at the same time. Fluoride is a mineral that can occur naturally or be added to water supplies, and it works by interfering with bacterial processes and strengthening enamel.
Sparkling and Flavored Water
Not everyone is a fan of tap water, and sometimes, you simply want a little flavor. Sparkling water can be a nice change of pace from tap water from time to time, but moderation is important. Sparkling and flavored water can be a little more acidic than tap water, and some have added sugars that increase the risk of decay.
You can make your own infused water as an alternative by dropping a few mint leaves, cucumber slices, and ice into your filtered tap water. Frozen berries and citrus slices are also good options once in a while.
Oral Health and Overall Health
What you eat affects your whole body, including your dental health. If your dental health is compromised, you might not be able to maintain a healthy diet. Our dentist in Sweetwater can help you design a preventive dental health plan to protect your smile through a combination of at-home dental hygiene, routine dental visits, and good nutrition. Contact us today to learn more or to schedule your next visit with our team in Sweetwater!