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Posted on: February 27, 2023
The Mouth-Body Connection: How Nutrition Impacts Your Dental Health
Did you know that a person’s mouth is often considered to be a window to their overall health? Your dental health and your systemic health are closely linked, and what affects one also affects the other. This link is known as “the mouth-body connection.”
At our dental practice in Sweetwater, we want our patients to be as healthy as they can be. One of the ways we do this is by discussing your daily habits and how they influence your dental health. While brushing and flossing are obviously important topics, we may also talk about your diet since what you choose to eat and drink has such an enormous impact not just on your overall health but also on your dental health.
1. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Human beings are mostly water. We need water for all of our body’s processes to function. Water is also crucial for good oral health.
After you eat, the sugars in the food mix with saliva and naturally occurring bacteria in your mouth, forming a sticky substance we call “plaque.” Plaque clings to your teeth, and the bacteria in the plaque excrete acid. If plaque remains on your teeth too long, this acid can eat away at your enamel. Over time, this creates small holes in your teeth — dental caries, also known as cavities. Drinking water helps to rinse away this acid. It also helps prevent dry mouth, which can also lead to cavities as well as gum disease.
Fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral that many cities add to their tap water, is also critically important for healthy teeth. Fluoride helps your enamel remain strong and lowers your risk of developing cavities or tooth decay. Your dentist in Sweetwater can let you know if you live in an area with fluoridated water.
2. Enjoy all the nutrition of fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables contain an incredible array of nutrients necessary for good dental health, including vitamin C, which prevents gum disease and can be found in citrus fruits, bell peppers, and cruciferous vegetables, and vitamin A, which helps build enamel and can be found in yellow- and orange-colored fruits and vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and melons.
In addition to the superstar nutrition of fruits and vegetables, even the act of eating them is beneficial to your teeth and gums. The fiber and high water content of fruits and vegetables can act like a natural toothbrush, helping sweep away plaque and dilute acids.
3. Vitamins and minerals build healthy teeth.
Teeth are bones, and vitamins and minerals that help build stronger, healthier bones do the same for your teeth. Dairy farmers have done a good job building the case that milk is good for strong bones, and that goes for your teeth as well. Why milk? Dairy contains calcium, which is essential for strengthening and restoring your enamel, and vitamin D, which helps your body absorb the calcium.
If you don’t like or can’t tolerate dairy, don’t worry. There are other ways to get these important minerals, along with others like phosphate, which also helps protect your enamel:
- Calcium—plant milks, leafy greens, winter squash, canned sardines and salmon, edamame and tofu, and almonds
- Vitamin D—fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, liver, and eggs
- Phosphate—seafood, poultry, pork, and sunflower and pumpkin seeds
4. Assess your snacking habits.
How often are you reaching for a snack? If you’re someone who likes to work with a bowl of snacks nearby, reaching for a small bite frequently during the day, you could be harming your teeth.
When we chew food, we begin the process of digesting and breaking it down into the macronutrients our body uses. For many types of food, the core macronutrient is sugar. This doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily snacking on candy or other sweets. Carbohydrates are, essentially, sugar, and your body needs sugar for many of its primary processes. Sugar provides fuel for the body and the brain.
Unfortunately, sugar can also be detrimental to your teeth. Remember how sugar combines with saliva and bacteria to form plaque? When you snack frequently throughout the day, this process is constantly happening, so your teeth are constantly being bathed in damaging acid.
You can mitigate this by snacking on fresh vegetables, drinking plenty of water, and brushing your teeth throughout the day, but even vegetables are fundamentally sugar, so it’s best to simply limit your snacking.
Remember: Dental Health Is Systemic Health
We want you to be as healthy as you can be, and that’s why we’re dedicated to discussing your self-care habits and looking for opportunities to improve. Don’t worry—we’re not asking for radical overnight changes. We know that’s not reasonable or sustainable. Picking one habit and looking for ways to improve it is a much better way to make the changes that will move you toward better dental and overall health.
One smart choice you can make is to see your dentist in Sweetwater every six months for a cleaning and check-up. If it’s been a while, don’t worry! We’ll help you make dental care more of a priority and get you back on track.
Call our office today to schedule a cleaning and check-up. We’re looking forward to seeing you!