The Impact of Food and Nutrition on Your Oral Health

Food habits and food components can have a profound impact on our oral and dental health. What we eat, how much we eat, and when we eat can affect oral status positively or negatively. While some foods can improve your teeth and gums, others can aggravate disease conditions like dental caries, gum infections, and oral cancers. Read on to learn how the foods we consume impact our oral health.

Key takeaways:

How is oral health linked to food habits?

Foods can affect your teeth and gums in 2 ways — directly via contact with harmful ingredients when we eat (local effects) — and indirectly via the absorption of ingredients into the blood (systemic effects). The types of food you take, their amount, frequency, the timing of intake, and your eating habits can add up and reflect in your oral health.

  • Type of foods. Foods are nutritional or empty — with minimum or no nutritional value. We must know the contents of whatever we eat in a day.
  • Sugars. All sugars, in different forms, have a long-time association with teeth cavities. The milestone Vipeholm study concluded that sugars in sticky foods, ingested between meals, were linked to a significant rise in cavities.
  • Amount and frequency of food intake. Consuming sugary drinks and snacks regularly without taking the time to brush your teeth might lead to cavities. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the danger and advises that free sugars account for no more than 10% of total calories consumed. Every time you have sugar, your teeth come under acid attack.
  • Eating habits. Eating patterns also dictate the harms caused to teeth. Taking sugars in between meals is linked to more caries risk than with meals. Experts recommend avoiding binge eating.

How do the right foods improve oral health?

Research shows that nutritional deficiency and malnutrition are fundamental causes of early teeth loss. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fibers. Consuming a varied diet loaded with veggies and fruits, decreasing the fat intake, and including fiber-rich foods in meals is a great ways to get the necessary nutrients from foods.

Vitamins for healthy gums and periodontium

  • Vitamin A, C, E. Vitamins A, C, E, and folate deficiencies can damage periodontal health. Vitamin A deficiency leads to gum infections, gingivitis, gingival hypoplasia, and supporting bone loss. Bleeding gums are often due to a lack of Vitamin C.
  • Vitamin B. Vitamin B-complex deficiency is linked to lower host defense against bacterial irritants. Adequate folic acid aids in the prevention of gum inflammation. Taking sufficient vitamins helps to avoid gum-related issues.
  • Calcium. Calcium is an important component of jaw bones and teeth — it helps increase bone density.
  • Vitamin D. Vitamin D aids in calcium absorption — you must monitor your Vitamin D levels to maintain optimal calcium uptake.
  • Phosphorus. Phosphorus and calcium need to be supplemented adequately — a lack can lead to secondary hyperparathyroidism, which is responsible for jaw bone loss.

Be aware of the nutritional values of your day-to-day meals. Foods like milk and dairy products, nuts, fruits, veggies, tea, and high-fiber meals help prevent caries and remineralize teeth.

What harm can foods do?

There are certain foods and their ingredients that can have a profoundly negative effect on our teeth and gums.

  • Acids and teeth erosion. Carbonated drinks and packaged fruit juices include citric acid, phosphoric acid, ascorbic acid, malic acid, tartaric acid, and carbonic acid. Studies reveal that the frequency of tooth erosion rises among regular soft drink consumers. People with dry mouths are more at risk of tooth erosion due to the lack of self-cleansing action of saliva in the mouth.
  • Sugars. Excessive sugar can cause or aggravate dental caries. Sucrose, one of the most common sugars added to foods, is regarded as the most damaging. This is easily broken into glucose and fructose and serves as a substrate for oral bacteria. Oral bacteria produce dental plaque-ultimately leading to dental caries.
  • Smoking and drinking alcohol. People who smoke or chew tobacco, or drink alcohol are at risk of developing oral cancers in the long run. The cancer risk is related to the frequency, amount, and period for which a person indulges in these habits.

Diet and lifestyle recommendations for good oral health

Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is key to keeping your teeth and gums healthy.

  • Nutritional value. Opt for nutritious meals filled with fruits, vegetables, high-fiber foods, and dairy products.
  • Avoid snacks. Avoid empty snacking. Steer clear of frequent bingeing between meals.
  • Limit sugar. Limit sticky sugars and candies — consult a dietician to know if your meals fulfil your nutritional needs.
  • Keep clean. Maintain oral hygiene by visiting your dentist every six months.
  • Don't smoke. Avoid smoking, drinking, and chewing tobacco-based products.
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