Nutrition plays an extremely important role in oral health, and you might remember from childhood that too much sugar and not enough brushing is one of the biggest barriers to optimum dental health and wellness. We want to make sure that you know what foods to avoid, what deficiencies to be aware of, and the special considerations to take into account if you choose a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle or herbal supplements.
The first line of defense, after cutting down on sugars, is to immediately brush the teeth, but we also recommend that you try to cut as much sugar from your diet as possible.
Dietary Considerations and Decay
By cutting back on simple carbohydrates, the rate of dental caries can be reduced. Simple sugars are found in many foods and have many names. Some of these are table sugar, corn syrup, honey, molasses and dextrose. By reading labels on food products, you can limit foods high in simple sugars and thus reduce the chance of dental caries. Bacteria need carbohydrates for food. Sucrose (table sugar) is the carbohydrate bacteria prefer. However, other simple carbohydrates, such as fructose, lactose and glucose, are easy to ferment and also support bacteria growth.
Bacteria also can ferment complex carbohydrates (starches), but the process takes longer. However, many complex carbohydrates are sticky and become lodged between teeth and gums. This allows the bacteria time to ferment the carbohydrate. Meats and foods high in fiber, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, help clean the teeth of food particles and sugars during the chewing process. These foods promote saliva flow, which helps rinse the teeth of food particles. Saliva also neutralizes the acid.
Although fresh fruits and vegetables do contain carbohydrates that can be fermented by bacteria, the fiber content counteracts the effect and helps clean the teeth, therefore protecting against dental caries. When we eat, we provide food for mouth bacteria. Eating three meals a day is important for adequate energy and nutrient intake, but snacking between meals presents special dental health problems.
Choose snacks that do not harm teeth. Examples of good snacks include cheese, yogurt, meats, plain nuts (not recommended for children younger than school age), peanut butter, fresh fruits and vegetables, unsweetened breads and cereals. The snacks most people enjoy tend to be high in simple sugars like dried fruits such as raisins, sweet rolls, candy bars, pop or caramel corn. Snacking does not need to be completely omitted. In many situations, snacking is important for good physical health.
Categories of Decay Potential of Certain Foods
– High Potential for Decay – Dried fruits, hard and soft candy, cake, cookies, pie, crackers
– Moderate Potential for Decay – Fruit juice, sweetened canned fruit, soda, Gatorade, breads
– Low Potential for Decay – Raw vegetables, raw fruits, milk
– Very Low Potential for Decay – Meat, fish, poultry, fats, oils
– Ability to Stop Decay – Cheeses, xylitol , nuts
Beneficial Supplements for Oral Health
In keeping with our whole body approach to dental health and wellness we have prepared a list of known natural ingredients and supplements known to aid in oral and dental health:
– Coenzyme Q10 promotes gum healing and cell growth
– Lysine combats canker sores
– Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids promotes healing, especially of bleeding gums
– Calcium and Magnesium help prevent bone loss around the gums
– Vitamins A and E are needed for healing gum tissue
– Grape Seed Extract is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
– Zinc plus Copper enhances immune function
– Aloe Vera Gel eases inflamed gums and soothes the tissues when applied directly to the affected area
– Chamomile Tea is soothing to gum tissues
– Green Tea is helpful in decay prevention and decreases plaque
– Clove Oil is good for temporary relief of tooth and gum pain
– Echinacea keeps inflammation down and enhances immune function.
A Word of Caution for Herbal Supplements for Dentistry
Many people do not realize that herbal suppliments can interact with other medications and local anesthetics. In one study, nearly 70% of participants did not inform their physicians or dentists about using them. Because herbal supplements including echinacea, feverfew, garlic, ginseng, ginkgo, and St. John’s wort may have the potential for adverse effects during or after dental procedures, please let us know if you are taking ANY herbal supplements so that we can provide you with the best care possible.
Calcium – Good For Your Bones, Good For Your Teeth
Research has confirmed the importance of calcium for your teeth and bones. According to a study published in the Journal of Periodontology, calcium deficiencies are also directly linked to gum disease, which is a leading cause of tooth loss. Researchers discovered that people who consume less than the recommended daily amount of calcium are almost twice as likely to have periodontal disease, an infection caused by bacteria that accumulate between the teeth and gums.
About 75% of people don’t meet their daily calcium needs. Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt are the best sources of calcium. In addition to milk & dairy products there are several other types of non-dairy sources of calcium that you can choose to ensure your daily calcium intake. The soft bones of fish, as with sardines, pilchards and tinned salmon, provide us with valuable calcium. Other useful sources include bean products, such as tofu, as well as sesame seeds, nuts, white bread, dried fruit, and green leafy vegetables particularly okra and curly kale. Soy milk alternatives, bottled water, breakfast cereals and orange juice are also fortified with extra calcium.
Vegan/Vegetarian Nutrition and Your Teeth
Many patients have upped their consumption of vegetables, and some are vegetarians or vegans. Occasionally these diets and lifestyles can result in some nutritional deficiencies. Some vegetarians and vegans experience deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D, putting them at increased risk for periodontal disease. We welcome the opportunity to talk to you about your diet, nutritional choices and how they relate to your dental healthcare needs.
Herbal Supplements for Dental Health
As science finds out more about the beneficial effects of antioxidants, even greater interest has developed in natural foods and natural products. In one study, nearly 70% of participants did not inform their physicians or dentists about using them. Because herbal supplements including echinacea, feverfew, garlic, ginseng, ginkgo, and St. John’s wort may have the potential for adverse effects during or after dental procedures, please let us know if you are taking ANY herbal supplements so that we can provide you with the best care possible.