With the holiday season upon us, planning meals and enjoying special recipes is a joyful time for many. Keeping a healthy diet won’t just fuel your body—it will protect your oral wellbeing year-round. Here are five ways you can promote healthy teeth and gums with the food you eat.
Eat a well-balanced diet
Nutrient and mineral-rich foods promote good dental health. Mineral deficiencies tend to impact teeth and bones, while vitamin deficiencies can affect soft tissues, like gums. Choose foods rich in calcium, like leafy greens, dairy products, and almonds. Other nutrient-dense foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are tooth-friendly.
Research from the National Library of Medicine in 2017 found a correlation between anti-inflammatory diets, healthier gums, and reduced tooth loss. Anti-inflammatory food is low in carbohydrates, saturated fats, and processed or refined foods. Incorporate healthy fats and lean protein, like lentils or fish, into your diet. When thirsty, consider reaching for a glass of water. Snack foods can be enjoyed, but do so in moderation and be aware of their impact on your oral and overall health.
Read the labels
When selecting food and beverages, it’s a good idea to read the labels. Ingredients are listed by weight from most to least, so labels declaring sugar as a near-top ingredient are high in sugar.
Be aware that terms ending in “-ose” are often sources of sugar, too. “No added sugar” labels don’t necessarily mean “sugar-free”—only that no extra sugar was added. Use of sugar substitutes like aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, and sorbitol may be better alternatives, as they don’t promote decay-causing acids like sugar does. It’s also important to note highly acidic foods, like pickles, citrus fruits, and soft drinks, can be erosive to tooth enamel.
Artificial sweeteners may also pose health concerns. These ingredients can impact the gut microbiome, disturb other parts of our physiology, and can lead to other issues like obesity.
Avoid lingering food and drinks
Foods that are sticky or starchy, such as raisins, bread, and potato chips, can cling to the surface of your teeth and feed bacteria that increase the risk of cavities and gum disease. Choose fresh versus dried fruits to help avoid this. They don’t stick to teeth as readily as their processed counterparts and may contain less sugar, which will decrease the amount of tooth-decay causing bacteria left behind.
Keep an eye out for drinks like red wine, coffee, and tea—they contain colour pigments called chromogens that can stain teeth. These beverages are also acidic, so they can erode tooth enamel. Make sure to drink plenty of water after consuming these kinds of drinks to wash away the staining properties left behind.
Give yourself time to process
Avoiding eating and drinking throughout the day will help give your mouth time to process what goes into it. While saliva production is increased during a meal and can help wash food particles away, ongoing snacking can leave food residue on your teeth. Opting for a sugar-free gum when you feel the urge to snack is a good way to keep your mouth busy and increase saliva production, which helps remove particles and neutralize acid.
You might think brushing your teeth immediately after a meal is a good thing, but try to refrain for at least one hour after eating. Tiny bits of tooth enamel could be brushed away if you clean your teeth right after consuming an acidic meal.
Keep up with good habits
As with all oral care, stopping potential problems before they begin is key. Floss and brush your teeth two to three times daily with a good fluoride toothpaste. It’s particularly important to brush before bedtime because salivary flow slows down during the night and leaves your teeth more at risk for decay.
Make dental cleanings and check-ups part of your routine. Your dentist and hygiene team can help you spot and address any issues you may be unaware of.
If you have questions about how your diet is impacting your oral health, contact Lewis Estates Dental Centre. Dr. Bains and the team are ready to help you keep your smile in top shape.