Without teeth, we can’t chew. No more crunchy raw vegetables and fruits! No more nuts!
No more peanut brittle……..I did not just say that!
We need healthy teeth and gums to eat nutritious foods and we need to eat nutritious foods for healthy teeth.
As children, our diet influences how our teeth developement and once grown what we eat plays a role in maintaining dental health.
It really is best if we take care of our teeth and gums otherwise we risk tooth decay, gum disease, and bone loss.
Cardiovascular disease, celiac disease, diabetes, sinus infection, rheumatoid arthritis irritable bowel disease, gastroesophageal reflux, alcoholism, and more can all signal that our teeth and gums may not be in the best state.
If our eyes are a window to our soul, then our teeth and gums are a window to our bodies.
A cavity is a hole in the tooth’s enamel. Cavities result from the build-up of plaque – a sticky slimy substance composed mostly of bacteria. In breaking down sugar and carbohydrates, bacteria create acids, and these acids can eat away at the teeth. Cavities hurt when they get bigger and touch nerves. An untreated cavity can become a tooth abscess. So if you find a cavity, get treatment fast.
Many adults over the age of thirty have some form of periodontal, or gum disease. Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gum tissue, is an early stage problem. With proper care, you can reverse it. But if you don’t, eventually the inflammation will lead to “pockets,” or little spaces between the teeth and gums. Bacteria love to live in these pockets, which can lead to periodontitis: the permanent destruction of the tissues that connect teeth to bone in the mouth. Not good. Symptoms of periodontitis include swollen or discolored gums, tender gums, bleeding gums, receding gums, change in tooth sensation when eating, loose teeth, tooth loss, and bad breath.
As if that weren’t bad enough, when gums are inflamed and broken, harmful bacteria can enter the bloodstream leading to more serious and chronic health issues.
Periodontal disease is known to be a contributory factor of coronary artery disease. It is not really known why this is but apparently gum disease doesn’t just signal inflammation; it also increases inflammation. And inflammation contributes to coronary artery disease. Interestingly, the same bacteria that live in our gums have also been found in arterial-wall plaque.
Nutrient deficiencies & oral health
Nutrient shortfalls or excesses will show up in mouth tissue before they show up anywhere else. Periodontal disease is associated with lower blood levels of vitamins and minerals and therefore getting enough of the specific nutrients needed can be important to successful treating gum disease.
OK so what do you need for healthy teeth and gums, and why?
Nutrients and what you need them for:
Protein – Tooth structure, mucosal/connective tissue development, and immune function.
Calcium – Tooth structure; may enhance enamel remineralisation.
Phosphorus – Tooth structure.
Zinc – Mucosal/connective tissues and immune function.
Antioxidants – Mucosal/connective tissues and immune function.
Folate – Mucosal/connective tissues and immune function; low levels are associated with periodontal disease.
Iron – Mucosal/connective tissues and immune function.
Vitamin A – Mucosal/connective tissues and immune function. But be aware that getting too much from supplements may result in gum problems.
Vitamin C – Collagen maturation and to maintain the integrity of the periodontal ligament; mucosal/connective tissues and immune function.
Omega-3 Fats – Mucosal/connective tissues and immune function; modulates theinflammatory response.
Vitamin D – Mucosal/connective tissues, immune function; may enhance enamel remineralization.
B vitamins – Epithelial cell turnover.
What to eat ?
A list of nutrients is all very well, but when you’re at the supermarket getting your food you still need to know what you should actually buy. Well, actually it is not that difficult.
Eat a mostly whole foods diet with lots of lean protein and fresh vegetables.
Avoid most processed foods, especially those that are high in simple sugars.
Take fish oil.
Want extra brownie points?
Here are a few foods, nutrients, and/or supplements that may play a specific role in oral health.
Probiotics may help to decrease gingivitis and plaque; bacteria in fermented foods might suppress the growth of pathogens in the oral cavity. One study showed that consuming fermented dairy was associated with less periodontal diseases. Probiotics from any source could be helpful in a similar way.
Cranberries and other plant foods rich in anthocyanins (like blueberries, red cabbage, eggplant peel, black rice, and raspberries) may prevent the attachment and colonization of pathogens on host tissues (including teeth).
This important amino acid may alter oral pH and reduce chances of cavities.
This is a substance similar to a vitamin and our bodies need it to produce energy and it is found in every cell. Deficiencies may play a role in the development of periodontal disease.
Echinacea, garlic, ginger, and ginseng
Research shows that these plants help to inhibit growth of periodontal pathogens in test tubes. But human studies are still lacking, so we still can’t draw any really firm conclusions about their benefits.
Whole foods first
Try to get the nutrients mentioned above from whole foods and give your teeth and gums a workout at the same time Unless you have a known deficiency, supplements should not be necessary.
Pod recommendations for healthy teeth
Start getting serious about your oral hygiene – Seriously!
– Are you flossing yet?
– Are you brushing at least twice per day ? If not, start!
Brush your teeth.
Use a baking soda-based toothpaste or better still just baking soda.
Baking soda raises the pH in your mouth, making it more alkaline and therefore decreasing risk of cavities.
Smoking can wreak havoc on gum and tooth health.
Drink green tea.
Drinking green tea improves the health of your teeth and gums, as it decreases inflammation, makes your mouth more alkaline, inhibits the growth of cavity-causing bacteria, prevents tooth loss, may slow progression of oral cancer, and freshens breath by killing odor-causing bacteria. Wow! All this, and it can help you to lose fat, too.
Eat mostly whole, nutrient-dense foods.
Foods that provide plenty of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin K (especially K2) and vitamin D. Foods like leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, hard aged cheeses, plain yogurt, meats, natto, beans, mushrooms, fish, eggs, and organ meats all work here. Oh, and make sure you get some sunlight.
Eat raw, crunchy fruits and vegetables every day.
Raw veggies clean your teeth to a degree (apples, carrots, bell peppers, etc). Eating an apple as dessert after lunch will help to remove material that has adhered to the surface of your teeth. Plus, apples contain naturally occurring xylitol.
These kinds of sugars lurk in both foods and beverages, such as fizzy drinks fruit juice, energy drinks, lollies, etc. Energy drinks are particularly damaging as they combine a high sugar load with an incredibly acidic pH. If your diet is built around energy bars and energy drinks, you probably won’t have any teeth remaining on your 45th birthday.
Maintain a lean/healthy body composition.
Excess body fat can promote poor systemic health, including poor oral health.
Exercise seems to protect against periodontal disease.
Increase the amount of arginine in your diet.
Eat more spinach, lentils, nuts, eggs, whole grains, meat, seafood
Oh, and of course remember to visit Hobart Holistic Dentist Dr Matthew Clougher at the Dental Pod for regular check ups! Call us on 03 6234 5114 for your next appointment.