EAT WELL TO BE WELL – Nutrition & Oral Health

A regular oral hygiene routine with brushing, flossing and rinsing with a mouthwash is essential to keep your oral cavity healthy and your smiles; beautiful. But did you know nutrition has an important role to play in your oral health?

How does nutrition and diet affect oral health?

What is Nutrition? Nutrition can be defined as the micro nutrients such as vitamins and minerals and the macro nutrients such as proteins, fat and carbohydrates. Even though the terms ‘nutrition’ and ‘diet’ are often used interchangeably, they are not synonymous. Nutrition is the end effect of the food in our body while diet is an individual’s eating choice and food habits. Both play an important role in oral health by affecting the health of the tissues in the mouth.

Effect of nutrition on oral tissues

Nutritional deficiencies may weaken the body’s ability to fight infections. Signs of nutritional deficiencies are first seen in the oral cavity. Iron deficiency can result in pale colour of the tongue while Vitamin B deficiency can cause cracks in the corners of the mouth.  A healthy balanced diet includes all essential nutrients in appropriate amounts to promote health. The next step involves balancing the distribution of those nutrients within the body.

Healthy nutrition for healthy teeth

Your mouth and teeth are the first contact points for the nutrients you consume. They are also essential for kicking off the digestion process. Every food and beverage you consume comes in contact with your teeth and impacts your teeth and gums.

Calcium Calcium is an important ingredient in preventing tooth decay. Calcium rich foods such as free-fat or low-fat milk, cheese or yogurt help in strengthening teeth. Almonds, salmon, and dark green leafy vegetables make other sources of calcium rich food. Take cue from Popeye and eat plenty of spinach as its rich compounds are great for your health. Adding calcium rich food in diet helps in preventing gum diseases and keeps teeth strong.

Protein Protein is important for healthy teeth. Protein sources include skinless fish and poultry, dry beans, legumes and peas.

Vitamin D Vitamin D deficiencies can lead to several oral issues including inflammation, cavities and gum diseases. It also plays a crucial role in tooth mineralization. Vitamin D can be taken through supplements and also by adding food like salmon, mackerel and herring to the diet.

Vitamin C Foods rich in vitamin C including citrus fruits, spinach, berries, kale, broccoli and potatoes help to keep the connective tissues in your gums strong and healthy providing support to hold the teeth in place.

Vitamin A Orange coloured fruits and vegetables like carrots, bell peppers along with fish and egg yolks are rich in vitamin A. This vitamin is not only good for skin and eyes but also helps in boosting saliva production.

Foods that affect oral health

Some foods and beverages can cause plaque which later causes tooth decay.

  • Consumption of sugars has been associated with an increased risk of developing dental caries.
  • Frequent consumption of acidic food and beverages is associated with an increased risk of erosive tooth wear. (Source: ada.org)

The more often you eat in between your meals, the more likely acid attacks happen on the teeth. Snacking habits should be limited and under control. The choice of snacks should also be made wisely. Hard sticky foods like dried fruits stick to the teeth leaving behind lots of sugar.  So it is a better choice to eat the fresh versions instead.

Foods that clean the teeth

Apples Eating apples can help to clean the teeth and fight bad breath. Skin of the apple is full of mouth-healthy fiber and helps to keep the teeth and gums clean while the acidity in an apple kills bad bacteria that causes bad breath.

Carrots Carrots helps to stimulate saliva production which naturally cleans the teeth. They are also rich in Vitamin B which helps to fight gingivitis.

Leafy greens Leafy greens like Spinach and Kale contain calcium and Vitamin B which help in strengthening the teeth while also involving some powerful cleaning action.

Nutritional choice for better oral and overall health

  1. Follow a nutrition and food plan based on your age, gender, exercise, and calorie needs;
  2. Eat sufficient amounts of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, protein foods and calcium/phosphorous sources every day.
  3. Maintain a healthy balance, and moderation in your food choices.
  4. Relish sweets with meals and avoid sugary snacks between meals.
  5. Snack on fresh fruits and vegetables, low fat cheeses, whole wheat crackers or low-fat dairy products.
  6. Exercise regularly and moderately.
  7. Drink plenty of water. 

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References:

  1. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, eatright.org
  2. org