Diet and your dental health

Oleg Magni

What you eat has a big impact on your overall health, so it’s no surprise that your diet also affects your dental health. Nutrients found in fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts improve your body’s ability to fight bacteria and inflammation, helping to protect your teeth and gums.

Some foods actually help defend against tooth decay in special ways. Recent studies have shown that fresh cranberries can help prevent bacteria from forming plaque. Calcium-fortified juices, milk and other dairy products are rich in calcium and vitamin D, which promotes healthy teeth and bones, and reduces the risk for tooth loss.

Cheese unleashes a burst of calcium that mixes with plaque and sticks to your teeth. This protects your teeth from the acid that causes decay and helps rebuild tooth enamel on the spot. Crisp fruits and raw vegetables, like apples, carrots and celery, help clean plaque from the teeth and freshen breath. You may already know that cavity-causing bacteria feed on the sugars in soda, chocolate milk and candy.

Sugar is converted to acid, which attacks tooth enamel and causes tooth decay. Did you also know that acidic foods and drinks, such as carbonated beverages, citrus fruits and juices, wine, pickles and honey, can cause tooth enamel to wear away, making teeth sensitive, cracked and discoloured?

A diet that promotes good oral health is not just about the foods you eat or avoid. When and how you eat them is equally important. Foods that take a long time to chew or that you hold in your mouth, such as cough drops, cause damage because they hold sugar against teeth longer than other foods. Instead of snacking on sugary, carbohydrate-rich or acidic foods throughout the day, eat these foods just during meal times to minimize the amount of time your teeth are exposed to acid.

Regular brushing and flossing can help keep your teeth healthy. If you don’t have a toothbrush handy, chewing sugarless gum that contains xylitol can help reduce plaque and fight cavities. Chewing stimulates saliva, which helps keep teeth clean, while xylitol prevents the growth of bacteria that cause cavities. Following these good practices will help keep your teeth healthy for a lifetime.