By Michael Vold, D.D.S., J.D..
Did you know that a healthy diet can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease? According to the American Dental Association (ADA), what you eat and drink can determine how often cavities occur and how they progress.
It is generally believed that a balanced, healthy diet consists of:
Fruits and vegetables
The United States Department of Agriculture?s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) recommends eating lean proteins and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. The CNPP further suggests that half the grains you eat should be whole grains, and that fruits and vegetables should cover half your plate at meal time. CNPP dietary advices are based on scientific research with the goal of improving the health and well-being of Americans.
Fruits and vegetables have a high concentration of water and fiber. They help stimulate the production of saliva, which washes away harmful acids and food particles in the mouth. Firm and crunchy fruits and vegetables are especially beneficial due to their high water content. Fruits and vegetables also contain vitamin C and vitamin A. Vitamin C helps with wound healing and maintaining healthy gums. Vitamin A is an important nutrient in building tooth enamel.
Foods rich in calcium, phosphorous and other nutrients are good for tooth and gum health as well. Calcium and phosphorus in particular help protect and rebuild tooth enamel. It is believed that both nutrients replace the minerals on tooth enamel that are naturally removed by acids.
Calcium is found in cheese, milk, yogurt, leafy greens, seaweeds like kelp, beans, figs and nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, sesame and pistachios. In addition to supporting good oral health, calcium also builds strong bones, regulates muscle contraction, plays a role in blood coagulation, and helps with communication between the brain and other parts of the body.
Phosphorus comes from protein-rich foods such as meat, poultry, fish and eggs, along with bran, pumpkin, squash, watermelon seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, toasted wheat germ, Brazil and pine nuts. It works in conjunction with calcium to build and maintain healthy bones as well as teeth, and helps the body absorb vitamin B.
Other food related-factors that an influence can influence oral health include:
Whether the food is a liquid, solid, sticky or slow to dissolve
How often sugary and acidic foods and beverages are consumed
The combination of foods eaten
The order in which foods are eaten
Limiting the sugar in your diet plays a key role in preventing tooth decay and maintaining good oral health. Bacteria in the mouth feed off of the sugars contained in food, and release acids that are harmful to your teeth. Sweets and snack foods not only contain large amounts of sugar, they have virtually no nutritional value. This includes sugar-laden drinks like soda, lemonade, and sweetened coffee or tea. Sipping heavily sugared products results in a sugar bath over the teeth that can result in tooth decay.
The potential for cavities, gum disease and tooth loss can also be increased due to medical conditions such as acid reflux and eating disorders.
Maintaining a balanced diet is not only necessary for your overall health, it?s one of the easiest ways to prevent cavities, gum disease and avoid the cost of cosmetic dentistry and dental oral surgery.
Dr. Michael Vold has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin (1963), a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from Northwestern University Dental School (1967) and a Juris Doctor degree from DePaul University College of Law (1980). He served as a dentist in the U.S. Air Force and taught as an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois, College of Dentistry. Dr. Vold is a member of the American Dental Association and Illinois State Dental Society, as well as a recipient of numerous professional honors and awards.