Tips on Dental Nutrition to Keep Your Teeth in Tip-Top Shape

Dr. Hutchison advises patients in Fort Worth on treatment recommendations, good oral health practices, and proper dental nutrition

What You Eat Affects Your Teeth

Oral health is not only an indicator of overall health; oral health directly and dramatically impacts one’s overall wellness in many ways.  Rarely is this fact more apparent than when discussing the effects of nutrition on oral development and dental well-being.

Most of us know that the things we eat affect our body’s health and development.  It’s important to remember that your mouth and teeth are key components within that system.  Aside from being directly affected by the nutrition that comes into your body, your mouth is charged with the essential task of initiating your body’s nutrition processing regimen.

While it would be unreasonable to make every single dietary decision based on what is ideal from an oral health standpoint, it is extremely important to be mindful of the overall impact these decisions are having on your dental well being.  Here is some handy information to keep in mind:

Watch What You Drink!

One of the easiest ways to cause dental damage through diet is with the myriad potentially harmful beverages that are popular in society today.  Everyone knows to watch out for foods and drinks that are high in sugar, because they can promote tooth decay.  What’s really causing the damage is the acid produced by the bacteria that feed on the sugar.  Some drinks cut out the middle-man by containing high levels of acid rather than sugar.  Some have high levels of enamel corroding acid and lots of sugar.  Yet another factor to consider is the ability of a given beverage to stain your teeth.  As a general rule, the more effectively something will stain a table cloth, the more effectively it will stain your teeth.  Almost any dark colored liquid has the potential to stain teeth over time.  This is not only a cosmetic concern;  the residue that stains teeth tends to be sticky, providing an ideal surface for bacteria and food particles to latch onto.

Beverage High in Sugar High in Acid Potential to Stain
Soda X X X
Energy Drinks X X
Fruit Juice X X
Sports Drinks X X X
Coffee X
Wine X X

Admittedly, this table is an oversimplification when it comes to illustrating the potentially harmful effects of each beverage category.  For example, energy drinks tend to be extremely high in sugar and acid; they are going to be far more harmful than fruit juice or sports drinks in most cases.  Additionally, many diet sodas and sugar free sports drinks lack the sugar content indicated above but still contain acid, while some brands and flavors have more potential to stain than others.  Following any of these drinks up with a water chaser can go a long way toward minimizing all of these harmful effects.  Just make sure it’s liquid water; chewing the ice left over from your drinks puts a lot of unnecessary stress onto those chompers.

Aside From Sugar, There are Many Snack Factors to Consider

As you can see, sugar content is not the only thing with which to concern yourself when it comes to dental nutrition.  Much of the food that sticks to your teeth ends up being a source of nutrition for oral bacteria rather than for you.  For this reason sticky foods, especially those containing sugar, have the potential to cause problems for your teeth.  Dried fruits and gummy candies fit squarely into this category.

In addition to the sticky stuff, you also want to try to stay off the hard stuff.  Hard candy is a catch 22; chewing it up causes the same enamel abrasion and stress that we mentioned with chewing ice.  On the other hand sucking hard candy effectively turns your saliva into sugar water, saturating your teeth with bacteria food for minutes on end.

It’s also important to remember that the sweet stuff isn’t all you have to be concerned with from a sugar standpoint.  Simple starches like potato chips and white rice easily convert to sugars when they come into contact with your saliva.

It may come as no surprise that the acids we talked about watching out for in your drinks can also be found in many foods.  Sour candy, vinegar, citrus fruits and tomatoes are all high in enamel-damaging acids as well.

The Good Stuff

Not all acids are bad for your teeth.  Strawberries contain a gentle malic acid that works as a natural teeth whitener.  There are all kinds of foods that provide various immediate benefits to your teeth.  We touched earlier on the dangers of sticky foods, but cheese is a sticky food with special, helpful properties.  In addition to being loaded with calcium, cheese sticks to your plaque and then helps to block or even neutralize the acids that attack your enamel.  Chewing sugarless gum is a great way to clear out unwanted sticky food residue between instances of brushing and flossing.  Whole grains and other high-fiber foods are also helpful in scrubbing these nasty remnants away, plus they have been shown to help reduce the risk of periodontal disease.

This brings up another important point about dental nutrition:  not every nutritional concern when it comes to oral health is based on what is going on in your mouth on a moment to moment basis.  Just like your hair, your heart, and your colon, your teeth have diverse nutritional needs for their development and to maintain vitality.  Protein, phosphorus, vitamin C, folate, and B vitamins are a few of the many nutrients your mouth and teeth need in order to have a healthy existence.  We hope this article has been helpful and informative.  It is a very general overview of the topic.  We of course recommend regular checkups to ensure you get the best nutritional advice for your specific dental needs.

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