Did you know, that your diet directly impacts your oral health? The health of your teeth and gums can be influenced by your diet and nutritional status, right through your life. As Dietitians, we often find that people forget about the health of their teeth and gums, and the impact it has for their overall nutrition. Poor dental health can also be the first sign of other chronic diseases. It is Dental Health Week across the country this week (6-12 August). A week where we are reminded how important high-quality dental care is essential to our entire wellbeing. In this article – we “open up” and explain how diet can impact your teeth, how your teeth can impact your health, and what you can do to keep your mouth healthy.
A varied and highly nutritious diet isn’t just good for our waistlines. It’s also good for our bodies, including our mouths. A study published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology Good Oral Health and Diet found a significant association between poor diet and increased risk of oral disease:
“There exists a biunique relationship between diet and oral health: a balanced diet is correlated to a state of oral health (periodontal tissue, dental elements, quality, and quantity of saliva). Vice versa an incorrect nutritional intake correlates to a state of oral disease,” the study reported.
The study links poor nutrient levels to periodontal disease; oral cancer; lesions; candida; mucosal disorders and poor development of the oral cavity itself during childhood.
Less sugar = fewer cavities
Our eating and drinking habits can impact the health of our mouths directly. Sugary food and drinks are the number one cause of tooth decay. Sugar is used by the bacteria in plaque to produce acid, which wears away at the calcium and phosphate levels on the surface of our teeth. These are called caries.
The same study also found that dental health problems were fewer in countries who traditionally ate less sugar:
“Very low levels of dental caries are found in isolated communities with a traditional lifestyle and low consumption of sugars. As soon as economic conditions improve and the quantity of sugars and other fermentable carbohydrates increases in the diet, a notable increase in dental caries is noticed.”
Healthy mouth = healthy person
Your mouth can also be a strong indicator of your general health and wellbeing. Studies show a “robust connection” between oral health status and serious major chronic diseases. A Dental Health Services Victoria paper points to the link between poor oral health nation’s biggest killers:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Respiratory diseases
- Kidney diseases
- Hardening of arteries
- Adverse pregnancy outcomes
- Aspiration pneumonia
- Stomach ulcers
- Oral cancers
Eating for dental health
Which foods are best for keeping our mouths healthy? Here are some other points to remember about eating for the health of your teeth.
Eat for nutrition
The number one thing we can do for our teeth, as well as our bodies, is to eat a balanced diet, high in vegetables and other nutritious foods. This is true right through our lives and is extra important for growing children. Eating for health will help to prevent chronic disease and reduce the likelihood of oral health problems.
Food like leafy greens, apples, carrots and celery are great for your teeth. Their fibrous texture gives your teeth a bit of a clean and massages the gums too. Plus, their abundant source of nutrients ensures your tooth health from the inside out.
Dairy has more than 10 essential nutrients which support your health. In addition, dairy like milk, yoghurt and cheese can prevent tooth decay because they contain calcium, casein and phosphorous. These minerals help to protect your tooth enamel.
Water is good for our bodies and also for our teeth. Limit sugary drinks to very occasionally. They are very acidic and as well, contain ‘sticky’ sugar which can promote cavities.
Not only does this include the obvious sugar like soft drink and lollies, but the hidden sugars we find in many packaged foods. From a dietitian’s perspective, less sugar is great for your internal health as well. It’s all connected.