It’s no secret that a balanced diet is important to our overall health. But did you know that what you eat and drink can also directly affect the health of your teeth and gums?
Here at Grubaugh Orthodontics, straightening smiles is only one part of what we do. We want to help you improve your oral health, too! Orthodontic treatment is one way to achieve that, but eating a nutritious diet also plays an important role in the process. Let’s take a look at how good foods can protect your teeth, how a poor diet can affect them, and what you should be eating in order to maintain a healthy, happy mouth.
A healthy diet will give you something to smile about
Nutrition affects our oral health before we’re even born. All the calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, and protein that an expectant mother takes in helps a baby’s teeth begin to form and mineralize properly. Our teeth continue to develop and mineralize throughout the teen years, and over the course of our life, our oral tissues are constantly recycling. A variety of nutrients are necessary to support this process successfully.
Good nutrition is not only a building block of oral health, it’s also a preventative measure. Nutritional deficiencies can reduce your resistance to dental disease and inhibit your body’s ability to fight certain types of infection. Your diet can help prevent tooth decay and enamel erosion….or it can contribute to it! Human mouths are naturally hospitable to all different kinds of bacteria, some of which are helpful, and some that are harmful.
Many of the harmful microorganisms thrive on the sugar in your diet. As they process this sugar, the bacteria produce acids that can eat into the enamel of your teeth, forming the small holes better known as cavities. If left untreated, tooth decay can worsen. It may become painful, and can cause teeth to loosen or even fall out eventually. This is one reason why you should do your best to avoid food and drinks with added sugar. While indulging in a sugar craving every now and then is okay as long as you’re brushing and flossing properly, fresh fruit can hit the spot in a much healthier way!
A healthy diet equals a healthy mouth
Fortunately, there is no evidence that the sugars that exist in whole grains, fruits, vegetable, and starch-rich staples like bread, rice, and potatoes are harmful to teeth. That’s good news since these can be excellent sources of vitamins and minerals! These foods benefit your overall health in a number of ways, but more specifically, they strengthen your teeth and help protect enamel. (They’re also safe for braces, if you wear them.) Here’s a brief breakdown on how healthier choices will give you a brighter, stronger smile.
Milk and other dairy products
Who doesn’t love cheese? Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt make excellent snacks, and also pack a punch of calcium that will help to keep your bones and teeth strong and healthy.
Whole grain bread and pastas
These items offer up complex carbohydrates that give bacteria less digestible food to grow. In addition, they possess a ton of nutrients to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Chicken, red meat, and fatty fish
Protein is the star of this show, but these foods also contain phosphorus, a vital component in strengthening your teeth and protecting the tooth enamel.
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Eating a rainbow of fruits and veggies is one of the best things you can do for your oral, and overall, health. Leafy greens, in particular, contain high amounts of magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, beta carotene, calcium and magnesium, all minerals that are instrumental in improving and maintaining oral health.
Sodas, juices, and sports drinks may be delicious, but they are notorious for leaving behind sugars that bacteria flock to. As the bacteria devours this sugar, it produces acid that eat away at the enamel of your teeth. Sodas and juices can also have phosphoric, citric, or malic acids added to them, which can compound enamel erosion.
Plain water, however, is wonderful for your oral health! It protects your mouth by washing away any leftover food and debris that bad bacteria are looking for, and also dilutes the acids produced by the bacteria in your mouth. It’s also useful for reducing bad breath and relieving dry mouth. While drinking water throughout the day is no substitute for your oral hygiene routine, it can go a long way towards keeping your mouth clean and cavity-free!
What’s the best healthy diet for you?
The best diet will vary from person to person, depending mainly on age, gender, height, weight, and fitness, but most people will benefit from the following concepts.
No single food, drink, or shake can meet all of the daily nutrient requirements. Eating a variety of foods and washing them down with water not only help you hit nutritional milestones, they also make mealtimes more interesting!
To maintain a balanced diet, aim to eat a variety of foods from each of the five major food groups daily, including:
- whole grains
- lean sources of protein such as lean beef, skinless poultry and fish, dry beans, peas, and other legumes
- dairy foods
Limit the number of snacks you eat, and when you do indulge, try to choose something healthy, such as a fruit, vegetable, or a piece of cheese.
Speaking of, there’s a reason to keep a lid on excess snacking! It’s not just what you eat that affects the level of acidity in your mouth, when you’re eating matters, too. Foods that are eaten as part of a meal actually cause less harm to the teeth than eating lots of snacks throughout the day, because more saliva is released during a meal. That saliva helps wash foods from the mouth and neutralizes the harmful acids being produced.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that foods and beverages should be consumed in the appropriate serving sizes whenever possible. This is especially important when it comes to items that are heavy on added sugar for the reasons outlined above.
Grubaugh Orthodontics can help you find your healthiest smile
It’s clear that what you choose to eat and drink can have a powerful impact on your oral health, for better or worse. While orthodontic treatment with Grubaugh Orthodontics can align your mouth and jaw and give you a straighter smile, adopting a healthier diet is an easy way for you to improve your oral health and your overall health, too!
If you’re in Lansing, DeWitt, or the surrounding areas, and want to learn more about how nutrition can give you a happy mouth and sparkling smile, get in touch with us today! We’re always happy to educate patients on ways to improve oral hygiene at home.