Healthy Utah – March 2016
The Dental Clinic at Roseman University

By: Dr. William Carroll

You already know that eating well is a good idea for your general health, but you may not be aware of just how much your diet impacts your oral health as well. Having great teeth is about more than just brushing and flossing—although these are still very important—it’s also about your food and drink choices. Here are three things to be aware of when you’re choosing what (and when) to eat.

1: Skip the Afternoon Soda

When you are eating a meal your body naturally produces more saliva that helps wash down sugars and starches that might otherwise stick around and harm your tooth enamel. If you have a habit of eating a treat in the afternoon, drinking a sugar-filled coffee mid-morning, or sipping on soda throughout the day, you’re exposing your teeth to those damaging sugars and acids at regular intervals and for extended periods of time. Without the accompanying increase in saliva from eating a meal, they are more likely to stick to teeth and cause more damage. Consuming sodas and treats during or right after a meal is best.

The same is true for small children, who often “graze” on snacks like crackers or Cheerios throughout the day, or carry around a bottle or sippy cup full of juice. These snacks and drinks cause prolonged exposure to sugars and starches that feed bacteria and could lead to decay. Instead, give your child water between meals and eat only during set meal and snack times each day.

2: Think About More Than Just Sugar

Many people think about sugary treats being potentially harmful to your teeth, and this is true, but there are also plenty of other things that could be problematic when you consume them. These can include:

  • Starches in snacks like crackers and bread, which break down quickly into sugars that stick to your teeth and feed bacteria
  • Acidic foods, both healthy and unhealthy, such as citrus fruits, soda, wine, lemon juice, sports drinks, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, pickles and vinegar
  • Dairy products, including milk and yogurt, which can contain naturally-occurring sugars
  • Sticky foods, even if they seem healthy, such as dried fruits

3: Get All Your Nutrients to Resist Infection

If your body is not getting proper nutrients from the food you eat, your mouth might be at risk of infection and inflammation. Over time if your body has a hard time fighting infection and inflammation in your mouth it can cause mild to severe gum disease, and even tooth loss. Eat a balanced diet with lots of vegetables, lean proteins, some fruits, nuts, seeds, and dairy, and only small amounts of sugars and starches for optimal dental health. Talk to your dentist about your diet to find out what nutrients you might want to add to boost the health of your teeth.

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