May 04, 2023 7 min read
For overall health and well-being, maintaining good oral health is crucial. Our diet and nutrition directly impacts our oral health, and the foods we consume can make a big difference in how healthy our teeth and gums are.
Strong teeth and healthy gums require a balanced diet full of essential minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins C and D. In contrast, a diet rich in processed foods and sugar raises your chances of gum disease and tooth decay, with gum disease being linked to many serious physical conditions.
This article will explore the role of nutrition in oral health and provide tips for improving dietary habits to promote good oral health.
Diet and Oral Microbiome Links
Diet has a significant impact on the oral microbiome. After the stomach, the second-largest human microbial community in the body is the oral microbiome, which is the symbiotic community of pathogenic and healthy bacteria in the oral cavity. In the oral cavity, hundreds of strains of bacteria colonize both hard and soft tissues.
When there is a natural balance of bacteria, your mouth maintains a neutral pH, but when certain strains of bacteria grow out of control, (most commonly for high refined carbohydrates and sugars) the mouth turns acidic and oral disease can result.
The Role of Nutrition in Maintaining Good Oral Health
Nutrition is essential to good oral health and specific nutrients are needed for strong, healthy teeth and gums. Vitamin C strengthens gums and helps to ward off gum disease, while calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D are necessary for strong teeth and bones.
Protein is crucial for maintaining oral health because it helps grow and repair oral tissues, and omega-3 fatty acids are believed to help support healthy gum tissue and reduce inflammation.
Supplements, while great, are just a stop-gap. If good oral health is your goal, focusing on incorporating nutrient-dense foods into your diet is a must. A diet rich in leafy greens, lean meats and fish, nuts, fibrous root vegetables and dairy products is the source of the vitamins and minerals our teeth and gums require.
Importance of a Balanced Diet
A diet heavy on sugar (including "healthy" fruit juices or smoothies) and processed foods is directly linked to tooth decay and gum disease. If your diet lacks essential nutrients, this can also weaken teeth and gums, making them more vulnerable to infection and disease.
A variety of nutritious foods from all categories make up a balanced diet. Whole grains offer energy and fiber, while vegetables and fruits are great sources of vitamins and minerals. The tissues in the mouth must be rebuilt and repaired, which calls for lean proteins like those found in meat, seafood, and beans.
The Impact of Sugary and Acidic Foods on Teeth
Foods that are high in sugar and acid harm the teeth. Certain bacteria in our mouths flourish when given sugar. As they grow and replicate, they produce biological byproducts which are highly acidic. These acids erode the teeth and irritate the gums, leading to oral disease and tooth decay. These bacteria are also responsible for the plaque build-up that damages both the enamel and your gums. The bacteria form a film, called a biofilm, on your teeth and sugary foods stick to teeth and gums, providing these bacteria with a food supply which accelerates the production of their acid byproducts.
Normally, when you have a healthy balance of bacteria along with a good diet, your saliva counteracts the acids, but with a poor diet your body’s natural systems don’t have a chance to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Limiting your consumption of sugary and acidic foods and beverages, such as soda, candy, and citrus fruits, is crucial. It is essential to rinse your mouth with water after eating these kinds of foods to help neutralize the acid and protect your teeth. Another wise move is to use a natural blend of essential oils, such as OraRestore Essential Oil for Healthy Gums from Great Oral Health, which are designed to safely inhibit the overgrowth of bad bacteria.
Erosion and Tooth Decay
Understanding the relationship between tooth erosion and decay will help you understand how various foods affect oral health.
The erosion of tooth enamel, or demineralization, is brought on by a person's regular consumption of very acidic foods and beverages.
The deterioration of enamel caused by an abundance of dental plaque, more commonly known as tooth decay, can severely weaken teeth and cause dental caries or cavities.
Periodontal diseases are normally the result of inadequate oral hygiene and poor nutrition. Oral disease is very common - in fact, close to 90% of people worldwide have been affected by oral health disease at one point in their lives.
Gingivitis: The most common gum condition, gingivitis, is caused by tooth plaque. The buildup of plaque results in dental decay and inflamed gums.
Periodontitis: This dangerous periodontal condition causes tooth loss and harms the delicate tissues in your mouth. As plaque calcifies it forms a hard layer called calculus or tartar. This irritates the gums which causes them to retreat, creating deep pockets and cavities in the gums. Pathogenic microbes then establish a home in these pockets and further erode the teeth and cause deeper damage to the gums. If not properly treated this condition can cause severe tooth loss and can even result in sepsis (blood poisoning) which could be fatal if not caught and treated.
Scurvy: Scurvy is a vitamin C deficiency condition that results in many microbes that produce acid settling along the gum line.
Foods to Avoid
Now that you know the link between nutrition and oral health, let us look at some foods to avoid.
Beverages that are either acidic or high in sugar (or both) should be avoided or, at the very least, consumed in moderation. Some of these include:
To counteract the effects of consuming any of the above, eat foods with a higher pH to help balance the acidity. Saliva is also a great pH neutralizer so try chewing gum made from xylitol to help stimulate saliva flow and counteract bacterial overgrowth. Brushing your teeth with a neutralizing and re-mineralizing toothpaste, such as Fluoride free toothpaste, can help to restore a healthy pH and to bond minerals back to your enamel.
Try to avoid high-carb foods with added sugars or starches as most refined carbohydrates will spike the growth cycle of bad bacteria. Among the foods to avoid are:
Must read for 12 Foods That Make Your Teeth White
Nutrients You Need
Maintaining proper nutrition and supporting a healthy oral cavity takes more than avoiding unhealthy food. Load up on healthy foods and consider adding nutritional supplements to your life!
The nutrients that your mouth requires are.
For optimal mouth nutrition, essential minerals include:
The Best Foods for Oral Health
As a note, most people do not realize how important saliva is for maintaining strong teeth and gums. Saliva contains minerals that help restore eroded enamel as well as neutralizing damaging acids. Chewing stimulates saliva flow, so fibrous foods that require vigorous chewing are especially beneficial, and clinical studies support that eating more fruits and especially green, leafy vegetables could potentially lower the risk of oral cancer.
Tips for Improving Dietary Habits to Promote Oral Health
Here are some tips for improving dietary habits to promote oral health.
Learn more about gum health here in our article, Is Gum Health Reversible
Good oral health and good overall health are tightly connected and proper nutrition is essential for maintaining both. A healthy, balanced diet of vital nutrients can help strengthen teeth and gums and fight gum disease and dental decay. On the other hand, a diet rich in processed foods and sugar can raise the risk of oral health issues. To ensure that any issues with our oral health are promptly detected and treated, it is also crucial that we visit our dentist frequently for checkups and cleanings.