Nutrition and Oral Health

If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, does the same hold true for a dentist or orthodontist? Years of research have shown us that what we choose to eat and drink can strengthen our immunity and improve our ability to fight bacteria and inflammation. This is helpful in protecting our teeth and gums, and nutrition can even impact the way our bodies handle the attacks of bacteria that cause cavities. But if that’s true, then the reverse is, as well. A poor diet can affect both our overall health and our oral health, increasing the risk for tooth decay and other dental problems.

Here at Seabreeze Orthodontics, we’re passionate about straight smiles, but that’s not all! We want to help you achieve a healthy mouth that looks and feels great, too.  Orthodontic treatment is one way we can do this, but choosing to maintain a nutritious diet is also an important part of the process. If you’re looking to successfully incorporate healthy foods into your diet, it helps to know which ones can protect your teeth, how a poor diet can have negative effects on your oral health, and what you can eat and drink to keep your teeth and gums healthy! Keep reading below to learn more about the many ways that nutrition and oral health are linked.

Nutrition: one of the first building blocks for oral health

Nutrition plays a role in our oral health before we’re ever even born. When an expectant mother consumes nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, and protein, it helps a baby’s teeth begin to form and mineralize properly. This is a relationship that continues for the rest of our lives. Throughout our teen years, the teeth continue to develop and mineralize, and our oral tissues actually never stop recycling! Consuming a diet rich in vitamins and minerals helps this process continue smoothly and successfully.

The more we’ve come to recognize that good nutrition is important in disease prevention, the more common it has become for dentists and orthodontists to counsel patients on how a healthy diet can be seen as a preventative measure. A nutritious diet is beneficial to your total body health, and it can also decrease your risk of developing tooth decay and enamel erosion. On the other hand, nutritional deficiencies may reduce your resistance to dental disease and inhibit your body’s ability to fight certain types of infection.

This is unfortunate, because human mouths are naturally hospitable to all different kinds of bacteria, a number of which are not helpful. These harmful microorganisms often thrive on sugar in your diet, which is one of the biggest reasons we encourage patients to avoid consuming too much added sugar in their diet. As the bad bacteria in your mouth processes ingested sugar, they begin producing acids that can eat into the enamel of your teeth. When this enamel wears away in spots, it can leave your teeth sensitive, cracked, and discolored. It also sets the stage for small holes forming in the teeth, otherwise known as cavities. If left untreated over a long enough period of time, tooth decay will worsen to the point that it becomes painful. Eventually, the teeth can loosen or even fall out.

Seabreeze dr juan with patient

A healthy diet is instrumental to a healthy smile

There are concerns about the sugars in foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables voiced occasionally. Fortunately, there’s no evidence that these naturally occurring sugars are harmful to the teeth, even when they come in starch-rich staples like bread, rice, and potatoes. This is good news for your smile, since these can all be excellent sources of healthy vitamins and minerals. Not only do they help strengthen your teeth and protect the enamel, but most of them are safe for braces, too.

Interested in some specific examples of healthy choices that can contribute to a stronger smile and improved oral health? We’ve got you covered!

Calcium-fortified juices, milk, and other dairy products are rich in calcium and vitamin D, which promotes healthy teeth and bones. They can also reduce the risk of developing tooth decay.

Talking about dairy products, the calcium in cheese mixes with plaque and sticks to the teeth, protecting them from the acid that causes decay. Calcium aids in rebuilding tooth enamel, too.

Thanks to their fibrous pulp, a variety of crisp fruits and raw vegetables like apples, carrots, and celery can help clean the teeth and freshen breath. Leafy greens are also excellent for your oral health since they contain high amounts of magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, beta carotene, calcium and magnesium. These minerals improve and maintain your oral health by protecting the gums and other tissues from cell damage and bacterial infection.

Certain whole grains contain complex carbohydrates that give bad bacteria less digestible food to grow on, while chicken, red meat, and fatty fish contain phosphorus, a vital component of strong teeth and tooth enamel.

Water is important for oral health, too

Let’s be honest – America loves its soda, juice, and sports drinks. Unfortunately, they’re pretty bad for us, and are notorious for leaving behind sugars that can feed bad bacteria. As bacteria devours that sugar, it produces acid that can eat away at the enamel of your teeth. Sodas and juices can also have phosphoric, citric, or malic acids added to them. If you already have trouble with your enamel erosion, these acids can exacerbate that, further weakening teeth.

In comparison, water works wonders for your mouth! It helps to wash away the leftover food and debris that bad bacteria love, and also dilutes the acids they produce. Drinking water regularly can help relieve a dry mouth and bad breath, too. Although increasing your water intake throughout the day shouldn’t be used as a substitute for your normal cleaning routine, it can still go a long way towards keeping your mouth clean and healthy, while reducing the risk of cavities.

Seabreeze team member working on patient

Seabreeze Orthodontics can help you improve your oral health

When it comes to promoting good oral health, when and how you eat is almost as important as what you eat. Try to stick to recommended serving sizes whenever possible, and keep snacks to a minimum for the best benefits. Foods that are eaten as part of a meal actually cause less harm to the teeth than eating many snacks throughout the day, because more saliva tends to be released during a meal. That extra saliva washes food debris from your mouth, and also helps to neutralize any harmful acids being produced.

The treatment and support we provide here at Seabreeze Orthodontics can help you achieve a straighter smile, but what you choose to eat and drink can make a big difference in your oral health, too! If you’re in Myrtle Beach or the surrounding communities and would like to learn more about how good nutrition can improve your oral health, get in touch with us today! We’d love to help you improve oral hygiene at home to give you a healthier, stronger smile that lasts a lifetime.