Unhealthy, sugary foods are easier to access than ever, with sweet treats like sodas, fruit juice, and ice cream available at every drive-thru window. Although convenient, sugary foods and beverages and foods lacking nutrients can take a serious toll on oral health.
Sugar and Tooth Decay
The mouth is home to over 70 different types of bacteria, most of which are naturally occurring and harmless. One type, called Streptococcus mutans, secretes acids when it comes into contact with sugar. That acid attacks teeth for the next 20 minutes or more. Over time, this strips enamel of minerals in a process called demineralization, which can soften the enamel enough to cause cavities and decay. Sugary food isn’t the only cause of tooth decay, but every sugary snack or beverage leaves teeth more vulnerable.
Nutrients and Oral Health
The mouth, like other parts of the body, has its own nutritional needs, especially in young patients. A few nutrients playing important roles in oral health include the following:
- Calcium, which hardens enamel and promotes strong teeth and jawbones.
- Vitamin D, which helps in calcium absorption and boosts bone mineral density.
- Vitamin C, which strengthens gums and soft tissue while protecting against gingivitis and gum disease.
- Vitamin A, which prevents dry mouth, keeps mucous membranes healthy, and promotes healing and fighting infections.
- Vitamin K, which supports bone growth and helps shield teeth from acidic substances that cause decay.
A diet lacking these and other essential nutrients can make the mouth more vulnerable to periodontal disease, a serious infection of the gums.
Choosing the Right Foods
Dental patients, especially children, should maintain a balanced diet with foods from each of the major food groups. Snacking should always be limited, but raw veggies, cheese, and plain yogurt are good options when necessary. It's best to choose foods offering plenty of the above nutrients. A few good choices include the following:
- Milk, cheese, salmon, and leafy greens for calcium.
- Fatty fish, portobello mushrooms, and orange juice for Vitamin D.
- Citrus fruits, leafy greens, and potatoes for Vitamin C.
- Fish, egg yolks, carrots, sweet potatoes, and liver for Vitamin A.
- Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and broccoli for Vitamin K.
Talk to Your Dentist
At your next appointment, spend a few minutes talking with your dentist about your diet to determine if the foods you eat regularly offer the nutrients you need for optimum oral health. Dr. Kozica at Kozica Dental understands the importance of diet when it comes to oral health, and our team can recommend which foods you should eat for a healthy mouth. Request an appointment or call Kozica Dental today at (508) 755-0751.