It is no secret that what we eat will have a direct effect on our bodies. It may be a tiny change that goes unnoticed and unfelt, or it could be something as monumental as anaphylactic shock. But you may be surprised to learn that our mouths and teeth, the place where digestion begins, are also affected by our diets. No, you don’t have to bite down on a piece of bone or a hard spice like a whole peppercorn to negatively affect the health of your teeth. Because digestion begins in the mouth, everyone who wants to enjoy the many benefits of a healthy mouth–a winning smile, fresh breath, bright and cavity-free teeth–should be aware of just how diet and healthy teeth harmoniously work hand in hand. Go on, keep reading. You know you want to learn more about keeping a healthy and confident smile on your face.
Sugar is the Main Assailant
Northstar dental care recommends brushing your teeth every time you eat. That’s right! Every time. If you’re wondering why, the answer has everything to do with sugar and acid. When we eat foods that have sugars in them, those sugars break down into acid. Herein lies the problem. After your sweet treat, however healthy a snack or not, the acidic sugars are causing a lot of microscopic stress and erosion to your teeth. The attack lasts for about an hour or so. The sugar is going back and forth with the bacteria in the mouth and plaque to create harmful acids.
Sugar has an accomplice, acidic drinks and foods. Acid comes in many different shapes and forms. There’s soda, citrus, caffeine, tannins and more. These acids love to wear away at tooth enamel and eventually to the dentin that lies underneath. This consistent and persistent wearing away of tooth enamel and dentin is what causes cavities. Without getting the proper dental care, this will lead to cavities or holes in the tooth that will require a filling, root canal and crown or tooth extraction (a pulled tooth).
Foods That Promote Tooth Decay
The short answer is sugary food. But many people are surprised to learn that sugars come in many forms. When you find ingredients that end in “-ose,” you’ve uncovered a hidden sugar. Some of these ingredients include fructose, glucose and sucrose. It’s also important to know that carbohydrates are also sugars. The majority of processed foods, foods that you simply heat and eat, have sugars in them. So if your diet includes a lot of processed foods like canned goods, microwavable pouches, microwave meals and cereals, it is highly likely that you’re getting more than your fair share of teeth damaging sugars.
Always read labels carefully when buying processed foods. Stickers like “All Natural” and “No Added Sugar” don’t always mean what you think. There can still be sugars in these items that come from the sugars that naturally occur in certain ingredients. Keep in mind that the higher up on the ingredients list an item falls, the more of it will be found in that food item. Beware of “Sugar Free” items as well. Often, the sugar substitutes are still different types of sugars that will still damage your teeth.
Be Careful What You Drink
In addition to the foods we eat, what we drink is also part of our diet. Juices, sodas, wine and more all contain sugars. Just as sugary foods need to be avoided and eaten in extreme moderation, so do sugary drinks. Not only does the sugar content of drinks matter, the pH factor of the beverage should also be considered. Any drink with a pH value less than 5.5 is acidic and poses a danger to your pearly whites. Seven is considered pH balanced and pH values above 8 are alkaline and will help to cancel out acids. Most drinks with high sugar content are acidic and should be avoided.
The best drink option is always going to be water. But herbal teas and other non-sugary drinks are also okay. It helps to dilute fruit juices and to only drink 100% juices. Keep in mind that some of the sugar alternatives on the market are not compatible with young children, so ask your dental provider if you’re not sure.
What to Eat
Your teeth are exposed bone, so any foods that you take in that will increase the health of your bones will also improve the health of your teeth. The best way to go about giving your teeth the nutrients they need to sparkle in the sun is to eat a healthy and balanced diet. Many bitter foods have a lot of minerals and vitamins that will boost your overall health, so be sure to include them. Work towards reducing your sugar intake. Do this incrementally. Put less sugar in your coffee or tea, start to dilute your juice with water, incorporate more vegetables into your meals and reduce the amount of carbohydrates you eat. Drinking plenty of water is also part of a healthy and balanced diet.
Choose lean protein, healthy fats that are unsaturated and whole grains. There are lots of alternatives to over processed unhealthy food items. Try Kamut or fonio instead of white rice, honey instead of refined white sugar, spelt flour instead of white flour and 100% juices instead of juice cocktails from concentrate. Include lots of different colors in your cooking to ensure that you’re getting a variety of vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats.
It is true that the health of your teeth is intricately tied to the health of your body. In fact, even straightening your teeth can help improve your breathing and airflow. Gum disease and gingivitis often increases your risk of heart disease and stroke because there are higher levels of certain bacteria in your mouth and body. When you eat a healthy diet, you’re less likely to experience more severe oral health problems. And when you combine good dental hygiene, brushing after meals and before bed and regular dental checkups with a healthy diet, you’re doing your whole body a favor, not just your teeth.