Nutrition Tips For Better Dental Health

One of the reasons we should pay attention to nutrition is that eating well maintains an efficient immune system. Poor diet is linked to 1/3 of all cancer cases. But what are some ways we can eat well, particularly to help our oral conditions? Here are some ideas:

  • Foods rich in Omega 3s (fish, fish oil, flaxseed) provide antibacterial benefits against gum disease and oral infections.
  • A diet with no industrial seed oils restores optimum omega 6 to omega 3 ratios producing healthy cell membranes, reducing insulin resistance and chronic inflammation, and providing no artificial trans fats
  • High fiber is recommended (brown rice, whole wheat, nuts, seeds). However, in the 1920s Drs. Mellanby noted that corn and wheat contain anti-nutrients (phytates) that lock up minerals and therefore could cause even more demineralization of teeth than sugar does. They also recognized that Vitamin D is important for healthy teeth. They recommended a “tooth decay reversal diet” that eliminated grains and substituted Dairy calcium and vitamin D.
  • Fruits and veggies are recommended—ones high in antioxidants like vitamins C&E are beneficial. Leafy green veggies show a reduction in oral cancer risk for female smokers.
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup and Sucrose are added to many beverages. Diets with no added sugars/no Hi Fructose corn syrup showed less plaque, lower plaque-acid production, less insulin-resistance, and reduction of chronic inflammation (gingivitis is a form of chronic inflammation). Plaque holds oral bacteria against teeth and gums and can lead to cavities or gum disease.
  • High carbohydrate foods (chips, pretzels, crackers) are easily broken down by saliva into sugar. The sugar stays on the teeth and is not easily rinsed away. Oral bacteria feed on the sugar and put out an acid that causes cavities.
  • Chewing gum will help decrease the acid left behind as will rinsing the mouth with water.
  • Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on our teeth constantly. Foods and drinks that contain sugars or starches cause the bacteria to produce acids that attack the tooth enamel. The stickiness of plaque keeps the harmful acids against the teeth and can contribute to tooth decay.
  • Snacking throughout the day increases the rate of harmful acid attacks to your teeth. (frequency)
  • The length of time food or drink stays in your mouth can also play a role in the risk of tooth decay. Hard candy, breath mints, and cough drops are examples of items that stay in the mouth for a long period of time. If they are not sugar-free, they subject the teeth to acid attacks for the whole time they are in the mouth and for at least 20 min. after they have been consumed.
  • Eating most sugary foods with meals helps to decrease the risk of tooth decay because saliva production increases during a meal and rinses away food particles.
  • Sugarless gum also increases saliva flow and helps wash out food and acids. Chewing sugarless gum after a meal or snack  may help
  • No snacking (occasional fasting) with more time between meals allows plaque acid clearance and the pH of your saliva to return to a health-promoting level.
  • Eating  tougher textured foods and less soft food promotes saliva stimulation at increased pH. Chewing exercise enhances muscle function and promotes optimal jaw development
  • Foods high in bio-available nutrients especially minerals and fat soluable vitamins (A, E, D3, K2) are critical for optimal formation of teeth and jawbones, vitamin K2 is required to activate a protein that prevents early calcification of growth sutures of the face, palate and jaws.
  • Dr. Weston Price from Cleveland OH (1938) noted that as cultures transitioned from a traditional diet to a more Western diet dental problems developed. He noted: dental caries, gingival inflammation, crowded teeth, impacted third molars, malocclusions. Research traditional diets and incorporate what of it you are able into your diet. 
  • Don’t graze all day.  Your teeth are exposed to 20 minutes of acid per exposure each time you eat. The example we used in school was that if you had a roll of Lifesavers candy and ate them all at once, you would have 20 minutes of acid production on your teeth. If you eat each candy individually, your teeth are exposed to 20 minutes of acid production for each candy. (Remember, acid production leads to breakdown of your tooth enamel and cavities!)
  • Avoid letting sugar linger in your mouth (hard candies or breath mints that dissolve slowly, holding drinks in your mouth or sipping them slowly over a period of time.)
  • Beware of sticky foods that cling to the teeth. (Items like raisins, taffy, etc.) The stickiness of the food may cause it to stick in pits and grooves on your teeth where it is harder for you to remove it. Cavities can develop. 

We hope you will slowly include some of these tips into your diet and work toward better teeth and gum health. Remember to check with your healthcare professionals (doctors, nutritionists, dieticians, etc.) to make sure the suggestion works for your situation, particularly if you have systemic health concerns. 

NOTE: The information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical advice and judgement of your healthcare professionals.