Proper nutrition and oral health go hand in hand. In fact, a balanced diet actually helps teeth and gums recover from a lifetime of abuse caused by the consumption of sugar-laden foods. While adopting a healthier diet late in life will not reverse tooth decay, good nutrition can slow the progression of dental caries (cavities) and periodontal (gum) disease.
Choose Foods With A Low Sugar Content
Consuming excessive amounts of sugar greatly increases the risk of developing oral health problems. Dental cavities are undoubtedly the most commonly treated oral health issue in the United States, and are often a direct result of poor diets that are high in sugar.
As food enters the mouth, digestion begins immediately. Bacteria live naturally in the human mouth, but without a daily oral hygiene routine, bacteria can begin to collect in a yellow, sticky film called plaque. Bacteria consume sugars and carbohydrates found in food, converting these naturally occurring sweet compounds into acid.
Acid then begins to attack tooth enamel, which over time contributes to tooth decay and gum disease. According to the American Dental Association, these acidic compounds excreted by bacteria can attack the integrity of tooth enamel for as long as 20 minutes after a meal.
Medical research continues to draw a strong direct correlation between sugar consumption and oral health problems, particularly among children who consume large amounts of sugar daily. As a result, the American Dental Association strongly recommends that parents limit the amount of candy and soft drinks children consume throughout their formative years.
The list of foods that are healthy for teeth is long. Mainly, foods with high calcium and phosphorous content are the best to consume in order to maintain healthy teeth. Calcium and phosphorus can actually help re-mineralize teeth, essentially countering some of the tooth enamel damage caused by acidic compounds.
Milk, cheese, and other dairy products are an excellent source of calcium, but nuts like cashews and walnuts are another excellent dietary choice. Whole grains and seeds such as sunflower and sesame seeds have a very high phosphorus content, in addition to many other nutritional benefits.
Firm fruits and crunchy vegetables like apples and carrots are beneficial to oral health as well. These foods do, however, contain a naturally occurring sugar called fructose, but the naturally high water content of these foods actually helps to mitigate any detrimental effects on tooth enamel.
Foods To Avoid
From a dietary perspective, healthy people should limit the amount of candy, sweets and soft drinks in the first place. The detrimental health effects of consuming high amounts of sugar daily have been well documented.
People interested in life-long oral health should avoid popular fast foods such as French fries and potato chips. Foods high in carbohydrates, which chemically speaking are nothing more than complex sugars, should be consumed in moderation. Also, foods that coat and stick to teeth long after eating, such as raisins, can contribute to tooth decay.
People interested in promoting oral health should not avoid sugars altogether. Complete nutritional balance is the best strategy for maintaining a healthy body and a healthy mouth.