Most people know that too much sugar can cause cavities, but few realize that all foods and drinks can impact oral health. In fact, your oral health can also affect your diet.
The more you know about this bidirectional relationship, the better equipped you are to prevent oral and overall health problems. Preventive dentistry is our passion at Lifetime Dental Care in Woodbridge, Virginia. Our team of experienced dentists offers comprehensive services to address all types of oral health problems, but we love to help our patients avoid them whenever possible.
That’s why we’re focusing this blog on the little understood relationship between diet and oral health.
The expression “You are what you eat” typically applies to your overall health, but it also rings true for your oral health. Here are several ways the foods and drinks you consume impact your teeth and gums.
If you eat a lot of sweets, you put yourself at high risk for cavities, small holes in your tooth enamel caused by a sugary biofilm (plaque) that sticks to your teeth and erodes the hard surface. Candy and cookies seem to be the obvious culprits, but carbohydrates, like pasta, rice, and bread, can do the same damage.
Carbohydrates turn to sugars in your mouth and form plaque that clings to your enamel and ferments. The pH level in your mouth plummets to 5.5 or lower — the ideal environment for acidic microbes to demineralize your teeth and burrow holes into your enamel.
To avoid this, limit your sugar intake and rinse your mouth with water or milk after consuming sweets and carbs.
Plaque buildup on your teeth affects more than just the enamel; it also does a number on the soft tissues in your mouth, such as your gums. Once bacteria take hold and invade your gum tissue, an infection called gingivitis sets in. If you ignore gingivitis, the problem progresses to periodontitis, a more aggressive form of the disease.
Acidic foods wreak havoc on your oral health, wearing away the hard, protective enamel on your teeth. If you’re an avid lemonade drinker or routinely chew on vitamin C tablets, your teeth are at high risk for erosion.
Acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease, accompanied by frequent vomiting, can also damage your teeth.
Poor oral health influences your food choices, which in turn affects your nutrition and overall health. Here are some examples of how the condition of your mouth impacts what and how you eat.
Misaligned teeth and jaws make it difficult to chew properly. This may cause you to avoid certain foods, like meat, nuts, fresh vegetables, and fibrous fruits, limiting the nutrients you consume.
Gaps in your teeth impact how you chew, too, so lost teeth, like jaw problems, can negatively impact your food choices. Studies show that people with missing teeth often consume insufficient amounts of protein.
The same study reported that periodontal disease can lead to poor dietary habits, including too many saturated fats and not enough antioxidants.
Aging and certain medications can lead to dry mouth, making it difficult to chew and swallow food. Hyposalivation also alters the taste of food, decreasing the appetite and making you vulnerable to poor food choices and inadequate quantities.
Switching to a mouth-friendly diet is as easy as making a few healthy swaps. Choose whole foods whenever possible, and avoid processed, sugary items. Fresh fruits and vegetables should always be on the menu, and lean proteins get a thumbs-up, too.
Drink plenty of water all day to keep saliva flowing and food particles off your teeth and gums.
Avoid all-day grazing, and limit snacking. When you do snack, choose healthy foods like apples, celery, carrots, and cheese.
Consume plenty of calcium and vitamin D to keep your teeth strong and healthy.
If and when oral health problems occur, don’t ignore them. They won’t go away on their own; they’ll only worsen and wreck your oral and overall health. At Lifetime Dental Care, we have your whole family covered with:
Don’t hesitate to call or book online anytime you need help from one of our skilled, compassionate experts — we’d love to be your dentist.