With so many delicious foods so readily available to us all the time, it can be difficult to determine which ones are truly nutritious. Sometimes, perhaps we sacrifice nutrition for convenience. Most of us are mindful of how our diet affects our body; but, do many of us actively consider how the food we are eating is affecting our oral health?
How eating poorly affects your oral health
You probably already know that eating lots of sugary foods aren’t good for your teeth. But do you know why? You might be surprised to hear that it isn’t actually the sugar itself that is damaging your teeth; instead, it’s the harmful bacteria that live in your mouth and thrive on it!
The plaque bacteria in your mouth uses and digests the sugar in foods like lollies and fizzy drinks to produce an acid that attacks the enamel of your teeth and causes a pH imbalance in the mouth. This process is called demineralisation. Over a period of time, this acidic reaction can cause the tooth to wear down and decay, which is when you may require a filling…or worse!
When your body is deficient in vital nutrients, it cannot function at optimal levels and may struggle to fight off infection. Periodontitis (gum disease) is the result of a serious infection of the gums, caused by several different factors, including poor oral hygiene and plaque build-up. Failing to nourish your body with adequate vitamins and minerals found in nutrient-dense foods like fruits, nuts and vegetables may also contribute to your body’s inability to fight off the infection.
How eating well affects your oral health
When you read about nutrition and your oral health, it is mostly all information about which foods are detrimental to your oral health. But it doesn’t have to all be such doom and gloom! There are so many foods that are beneficial for your smile. Eating mindfully (that is, eating in moderation and ensuring that you are getting the right vitamins, minerals and nutrients from healthy, natural foods) can greatly impact not only your oral health but also your overall health, too!
Which foods should I be eating to benefit my oral health?
Maintain a nutrient-rich diet is always advisable. That includes a healthy balance of things like proteins, fats and carbohydrates – i.e. Lean meats, leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds and whole grains just to name a few. Some of these nutrients are particularly beneficial to your teeth and bones, particularly foods that are high in calcium (sardines, kale, soybeans, phosphorous (pumpkin seeds, salmon, lentils) and fluoride (crab, prawns, oatmeal). The most important thing to remember is to eat a variety of foods in moderation and to recognise which foods are a rarely eat, sometimes eat, regularly eat and eat every day!
While this might seem obvious, drinking enough water also plays an important role in your oral health. Your mouth is a naturally wet place and functions best when kept in a hydrated condition. Saliva regulates the condition and pH levels of your mouth, protecting both hard and soft tissues. It works to counteract the acid produced by bacteria after a meal, and naturally, has to work in overdrive to counteract sugary foods. Drinking lots of water encourage saliva production, flushes out your mouth and contributes to the overall well-being of your body.
Nutrition is important, no matter what your health concern. Your healthcare professional will always insist that you are mindful of your diet and that you make wise choices.