A healthy diet is not a new concept. Health experts have hailed the positive effects a healthy diet has on your health for decades. The right diet helps you avoid numerous illnesses from heart disease to diabetes and obesity to cancer. However, your diet can also affect your oral health, adding to the complications of the whole diet conundrum. The good news is that, for the most part, healthy food is healthy food. You won’t have to give up anything you don’t already know is bad for you. Here are 11 ways your diet can affect your oral health.
1. Sugary drinks
It is no secret you should be avoiding sugary drinks like sodas and sports drinks. Even fruit juices should be avoided, as the acid and sugar in these kinds of drinks stay on your teeth afterwards and eat away at your enamel. Although most of us know that soft drinks are loaded with sugar, it is not just the sugar that is harmful. These drinks also contain phosphoric and citric acids that are very harmful to teeth. These ingredients erode the enamel of the teeth, which increases your risk for cavities, tooth sensitivity, gum disease, and more. These drinks are unhealthy in general and can lead to more than just oral health challenges. They should be avoided altogether, as you will avoid unnecessary calories that are not providing any nutritional value whatsoever.
2. Sugary snacks
Like sugary drinks, sugary snack foods should also be avoided. The sugar leaves food particles in your mouth and on your teeth, which can lead to tooth decay if not washed away.
3. Sugar-free snacks
Although sugary snacks should be avoided, sugar-free choices are not as bad. In fact, sugar-free lollipops and hard candies actually stimulate saliva in the mouth. This is a good thing, as it helps reduce plaque build up. Plaque can produce more quickly in dry mouths, which can increase the risk of tooth decay.
You can also choose sugar-free gum for a sweet fix, as they too will help increase saliva. They also help neutralize acids in your mouth that cause cavities. Last, but not least, chewing sugar-free gum after meals will freshen your breath and even help dislodge food particles from your teeth.
Although sugar-free snacks and gum are a positive, diet sodas are still something to avoid. Despite having lower sugar levels, they also contain the harmful acids that will eat away at your enamel.
If you must eat chocolate, be sure to choose dark chocolate. It tends to contain less sugar and more importantly, cocoa beans contain tannins, polyphenols, and flavonoids. These strong antioxidants are very good for your teeth. The tannins in dark chocolate help prevent cavities, as they stop bacteria from sticking to your teeth. Polyphenols and flavonoids neutralize the microorganisms that cause bad breath, and can also help to prevent gum infections and tooth decay.
5. Acidic foods
Although many naturally acidic foods have several health benefits, such as a high level of Vitamin C, they, unfortunately, are not very good for your teeth. Avoid using fresh lemons and limes in your water and drinks, as the acid is harmful to your teeth. You can certainly continue to enjoy acidic fruits and vegetables, just be sure you rinse your teeth with water after you eat them.
6. Sticky sweets
We’ve already mentioned sugary snacks, but sticky sweets deserve their own spot. The problem with hard or sticky candy is that it sticks to your teeth and slowly dissolves in your mouth, which increases the chance of decay. As it dissolves, it also stays in your saliva allowing it to get between your teeth. As well, chomping on hard or sticky candy can also damage your teeth causing cracks or even complete breaks and fractures. Chewy candy such as toffee can also damage dental work, as it sticks to the surface; such work can literally be pulled out as you chew.
7. Starchy foods
The problem with starchy foods is that they too can get stuck in crevices. Starchy foods would include all the good stuff we crave such as chips, pizza, bread, and pasta. These foods do not contain sugar, but starch is quickly converted into sugar as soon as it is in your mouth. As with sugary snacks and foods, once the starch converts to sugar it will decalcify your enamel, which can lead to cavities.
8. Dried fruits
Parents often offer dried fruit to their children as a healthy snack option. However, these fruits are very high in sugar content and have the added issue of being very sticky. The result is the same as eating sugary and sticky snacks that promote bacteria and cause enamel erosion.
9. Junk food
All forms of junk food are a complete health risk. They can lead to gum disease, weakening bone structure, and cause serious issues that increase your risk of heart disease. This is because junk food contains added salt and sugar, which helps food particles stick to your teeth. This increases acid build up, which leads to tooth decay and cavities.
10. Healthy choices
Healthy choices will help keep your teeth and gums strong. Here are some healthy snacks and drinks:
- Drink plenty of water, especially when snacking on sugary snacks. This will help wash away the harmful food particles.
- Eat a variety of foods including:
- whole grains
- low-fat and fat-free dairy foods
11. Full meals
There is a trend towards eating a series of smaller meals instead of three large meals a day. If you do follow this type of “grazing” diet, make sure you are limiting the number of snacks you eat and focus on eating meals instead. When you are eating a full meal you produce more saliva, which helps wash food particles from your mouth while reducing acids that can cause tooth decay.
In hand with a healthy diet, you should always brush twice and day and visit your dentist twice a year. This will ensure you avoid oral problems and enjoy dental health for life.
To get started on a healthy oral health regime, call Guelph Family Dentistry at (888) 588-1691 or click here to contact our knowledgeable team.