When you think about the word diet, losing weight may come to mind. Or maybe thoughts of which foods are best, as in a balanced or healthy diet. Most people don’t automatically think about their oral health and how it relates to what we eat. I’m Dr. James Stewart, and I’m one of the few who do think about oral health in relation to diet.
Before food ever reaches your stomach, it affects the balance in your mouth. Sugars and starches are converted into acids when they enter the mouth, and these acids are the main cause of tooth decay (cavities). Many health experts tell us to eat small meals often rather than a few large meals in a day. While this is good for our metabolism, it’s not ideal for our mouths unless – unless you eat foods that are low in starch and sugar, and you rinse your mouth with water after eating.
Best foods for oral health include cheese, meats, milk, and nuts because they contain calcium and phosphorus, minerals necessary for remineralization of teeth. Remineralization is the process of restoring minerals to tooth enamel. Acids eat away the minerals, remineralization replenishes them.
You’ve heard that an apple a day keeps the doctor away? Not only are apples and crunchy fruits and veggies good for your bodily health, they’re also good for your mouth. These foods have a lot of water in them to dilute their sugars. Water also promotes saliva production, and saliva equalizes acids while rinsing away food particles so that they don’t sit on teeth and cause demineralization.
While sugars and starches are turned into acids by oral bacteria, foods that are naturally high in acid are also a problem. Citrus fruits, tomatoes, and sour foods (or candies) should be eaten with other foods or water so that their acids are buffered.
As for drinks, the most healthy beverages for your mouth are water (of course – and tap water contains fluoride, so that’s a plus), non-sweet tea, and milk. Colas, lemonade, energy drinks, sugary tea, coffee, fruit juices, and Kool-Ade with sugar are not the best choice. Consuming these acidic and sugary beverages over a few hours, like while you’re working, is a particularly bad habit. If you have a Root Beer or sweet tea now and then, drink it in a short period of time, and rinse your mouth with water afterward.
If you have a toothache or know that you need a checkup, call my Livonia dental office. My team and I provide general, restorative, and cosmetic dentistry for patients of all ages, from kids to seniors. Be sure to subscribe to this blog, as well, and you’ll get healthy tips right in your email!