Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to whether nutrition will improve your dental condition. Everyone’s body is unique, and we all react differently. However, if you have persistent problems, it might be worth trying some of these to see how your body reacts. In most cases dietary sources (foods) are better than taking supplements.
If you have soft, spongy gums—try adding vitamin C to your diet and decreasing grains in your diet. The Vitamin C recommendation comes from studies on scurvy (which affected gums too). Be aware though that too much vitamin C can counteract the effects of “Novocaine” so avoid diets high in Vitamin C for a day or two before a dental appointment if you plan to have local anesthesia.
For problems with the hard parts of your teeth:
Fat soluble vitamins A & D are needed for production of osteocalcin (which deposits phosphorus and calcium in our bones). Some studies show that diets deficient in these vitamins result in more tooth decay. Vitamin A (retinol) also helps your body utilize calcium and increases growth factors which stimulates bones and teeth to repair.
Some studies have shown that grass fed butter in the diet increases resistance to tooth decay. The reason for this is unknown.
Dr. Melvin Page did studies showing blood sugar fluctuations pull calcium and phosphorus from teeth and bones. Stable blood sugars are better for reducing tooth decay. All sweet foods (both artificial and natural) cause blood sugar fluctuations. The longer the fluctuations the more minerals are pulled from your system. The more often you’re eating, the less time your blood sugar has to return to normal. His recommendations were:
- Limit sweet fruits (berries, peaches, bananas, pineapple, dried fruits) until tooth decay is under control.
- Only have fruit around the middle of the day, such as after lunch. Sour berries such as raspberry, kiwi or green apples are the best ones.
- For those with severe cavities or those who want to stop the rapid process of tooth decay, avoid all sweets and fruits.
There are many sources that discuss sugar and other sweeteners in our diet. We do know that mouth bacteria consume sugar present in our mouth and put out acid as their waste product. Conventional dental teaching states that this acid is what breaks down the tooth enamel. Some authors indicate honey (choose unheated or never heated) is a better sweetener than sugar. Other authors discourage using honey because it is an animal product. Maple syrup (grade B organic is best) is a sweetner that most authors feel is better. And believe it or not some authors recommend real cane sugar if you need a sweetener.
Among the artificial sweeteners, stevia is recommended to be used cautiously—the minimally processed fresh herb is the safest. Sources say to avoid stevia extracts or overly processed stevia and to not use stevia stored in glycerin.
Sweeteners that most sources say to avoid are:
- high fructose corn syrup and agave—they’re both manufactured.
- sugar alcohols (xylitol etc. these usually end in –ol). Confusing since many dental recommended products (like sugar free gum) use xylitol. For some people, consuming too much of the sugar alcohols can upset their digestive system.
- artificial or fake sweeteners (aspartarme , NutraSweet, etc.).
- brown rice syrup and malted grain sweeteners (some sources say toxins from the crops can taint them).
If you already have severe dental issues, you probably will not be able to correct them with diet alone. You may need the assistance of a dentist or dental specialist to get the disease(s) under control. However, if you’re in an earlier stage of dental disease, you might try some of these nutrition tips and see if you (or your dentist) notice a difference.
Note: The information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement and advice of your own healthcare professionals. Please discuss any changes with your own healthcare professionals.
Jennifer G. Robb, DMD is a general dentist who sees both adults and children
1320 Cooper Foster Park Rd.
Lorain, OH 44053