Food has a major influence on the health of your teeth. Have you ever heard the phrase: “You are what you eat?” This phrase applies not only to your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels but to the structure of your teeth as well. In fact, a healthy diet and a good oral hygiene can make all the difference between a person with healthy teeth and a person constantly struggling with decay, gum inflammation, tooth loss and bad breath. That is why, in this article we will discuss not only the foods that are bad for your teeth but also the foods that are good for your teeth and gums and the benefits of the nutrients in those foods, the connection between sugary/acidic foods and tooth decay/erosion, and the impact of frequent food intake on your teeth.
Foods that are good for your teeth and gums
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean sources of protein, fish, legumes and low fat/fat-free dairy are foods that are good for your teeth and gums. Fruits and vegetables are especially important because they contain essential vitamins and minerals required for healthy teeth and gums. Furthermore, fruits and vegetables are crunchy so when you bite down and allow them to slide along your gums they actually clean your teeth naturally. They also improve the circulation of your gums by gently massaging your gums as they slide along your gums. Furthermore, dairy products are also an important source of nutrients as they have calcium and phosphate which makes up the crystalline structure of the teeth. Lastly, fish is also very important as it is rich in omega-3 which decreases inflammation and can help keep your gums and oral tissues healthy.
Here is a list of important nutrients founds in foods that are good for your teeth and gums:
|Calcium, phosphorus (phosphate), magnesium, fluoride, vitamin A||All important for teeth development; Calcium and phosphate make up the crystalline structure of the teeth; Calcium and fluoride are important for remineralization of the teeth|
|Zinc, antioxidants, folate, iron, vitamin A, vitamin D, omega 3||All important for the structural integrity of the inner lining of the mouth and for immune function; Omega-3 decreases inflammation; Folate helps to prevent periodontal disease|
|Vitamin B||Increases epithelial cell turnover (outermost layer of the skin)|
|Vitamin C||Increases collagen maturation and helps maintain the integrity of the gums, inner lining of the mouth and immune function|
|Proteins||Important for collagen production; Collagen is found in the connective tissue of the gums and bones; Collagen is also a major component of dentine structure which is the middle yellow layer of the tooth;|
Foods that are bad for your teeth and gums
I hate to break the bad news but unfortunately those yummy and irresistible sweet foods that taste soooo delicious are actually the ones that cause the most trouble to our teeth.
So my recommendation would be to limit the foods containing sugar, saturated fat, and salt. For example, you should eat less of biscuits, cakes, desserts, pastries and pies; ice-cream, confectionery and chocolate; processed meats and sausages; commercial burgers, fried foods including fries or other fatty and salty snack foods; and cream, butter and spreads which are high in saturated fats.
If chosen for consumption, however, these foods should be eaten rarely and only in small quantities because they can cause decay and erosion of teeth. Please read below the paragraph where I talk about the 5 tips on how to take care of your teeth after consuming foods that are bad for your teeth and gums.
Why are sweet foods bad for your teeth? Because they cause decay…
If you don’t brush your teeth regularly, leftover food pieces on your teeth become nutrient sources for bacteria. Bacteria can break down sugars and carbohydrates left on your teeth for their own energy, producing organic acids as byproducts. These acids can dissolve away important minerals from the teeth thus weakening the tooth structure. If the process continues for a long period of time, cavities or holes can result in your teeth. Cavities can act as food traps for bacteria which can result in even bigger cavities. If not treated, the bacteria can reach the core of your tooth known as the pulp. Once it reaches the pulp, it kills the tooth leaving you with a lot of pain and discomfort. This disintegration of your tooth by the acids and bacteria is known as decay.
The good news is that decay can be prevented by brushing your teeth two times per day and by limiting the intake of unhealthy foods. For more information on why brushing your teeth twice a day is important, please click here.
Why are acidic drinks bad for your teeth? Because they cause erosion…
In the above paragraph, we talked about how acids produced by the bacteria can eat away at the structure of your teeth. Well, guess what happens when you voluntarily coat your teeth in acid when consuming acidic drinks? Yes, the same thing happens but on a larger scale. So essentially, the acids strip away the minerals from your teeth which can cause the middle yellow layer of your tooth to show through and for your teeth to appear more yellow. This effect is amplified if you clench or grind your teeth as the mechanical grinding acts synergistically with acids to increase the wear of your teeth.
Did you know that the pH of your stomach is 1.5-2.5 which is acidic enough to digest the food you eat. Well, the pH of eg. the Pepsi that you drink is 2.5 which is acidic enough not only to digest food but also to digest your teeth as well. That is something to think about before you consume your next soft drink. Some other acidic drinks to avoid include sugar-sweetened juices, sports, energy and alcoholic drinks.
Your gums and bone suffer from bad foods as well
There are over 700 species of bacteria in our mouth. If you eat a healthy diet and maintain good oral hygiene then these bacteria will not cause any problems. However, when you eat unhealthy food by consuming acidic drinks and carbohydrates, you disrupt the normal flora in your mouth causing bad bacteria to take over and to multiply.
Bacteria can grow as a sticky deposit on your teeth known as plaque. This layer of plaque not only will produce acids that damage your teeth as discussed above but will also produce toxins. Furthermore, plaque has the potential of getting calcified which means that it turns into hard tissue known as calculus. These toxins along with calculus have the potential of irritating your gums and causing gum disease.
Your gums consider calculus to be a foreign object and will try to avoid touching it by forming a pocket. This pocket serves as a perfect environment for anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that can survive without oxygen) to grow in. Anaerobic bacteria is more dangerous than the bacteria that lives in an oxygenated environment. Anaerobic bacteria can cause even more disease including irreversible bone loss causing your teeth to become mobile and it is harder to get rid of because your toothbrush does not reach to the depth of the pocket.
As you can see once you start eating unhealthy and stop maintaining good oral hygiene, gum disease is almost inevitable. It is like a snowball that keeps getting bigger and bigger. The simplest solution to this is prevention by eating healthy and maintaining good oral hygiene. When you eat healthy, the unhealthy bacteria do not have enough food supply to multiply and cause all the problems mentioned above.
Baby’s teeth can also be affected
Even before the baby’s teeth emerge to the surface, they undergo crown and root development underneath the gums. This is a very delicate process and requires good nutrition for healthy development of all of the tooth structures. The types of foods your baby ingests can influence tooth structure, strength, shape, size and quality of enamel and dentine. Enamel is the outermost white layer of tooth and dentine is the next deeper yellow layer of tooth. For more in depth information on tooth structure, please click here.
Malnutrition can lead to poor structural integrity of teeth and surrounding tissues. Inadequate structural integrity of teeth can cause teeth to become more prone to caries. Whereas, inadequate integrity of tissues can lead to poor tissue healing and increased susceptibility to disease.
How often you snack or eat meals can affect the health of your teeth
Ideally, the pH of your mouth should stay at around 7 (neutral). However, within 5-10 minutes of consuming sugary or acidic foods, the pH of your mouth drops (becomes more acidic). These acids to a certain extent can be neutralized by the buffering capacity of your saliva however when the buffering capacity is overwhelmed, the pH drops rapidly. Then it takes over 30 to 60 minutes (or longer for some individuals) for the pH of your saliva to gradually recover back to 7.
Therefore, the more often you snack throughout the day, the longer the pH of your saliva will be acidic. This means that your teeth will be covered in acid for a longer period of time throughout the day. This will cause them to lose minerals and structural integrity. That is why it is recommended to eat 3 times per day and to limit the snacking in between.
Now, it doesn’t matter whether you snack or consume acidic drinks in between your meals since they both cause a drop in pH and tooth demineralization. Therefore, it is best to limit acidic drinks to mealtimes and to drink water in between your meals instead.
5 Tips on how to take care of your teeth after consuming foods that are bad for your teeth and gums
- Rinse your mouth every time after consuming drinks and foods that are bad for your teeth and gums. This will help to get rid of food stuck in between your teeth. It will also help to get rid of excess sugar on your teeth. Lastly, it will help to neutralize the acidic environment of your mouth.
- Drink at least 3 liters of water per day. Drinking water also helps to rinse your mouth and to increase your saliva production. Saliva plays a huge role in protecting your teeth from decay. It has antibacterial properties and pH buffering capacity.
- Do not brush your teeth for at least half an hour after consuming acidic drinks. It takes at least 30 minutes for your saliva to go back to neutral pH after drinking acidic drinks. So if you brush sooner, you will essentially be brushing your teeth in acid. The mechanical action of the toothbrush along with the acid will increase the wear and tear of your teeth.
- Try not to snack or consume acidic drinks in between your meals. As discussed earlier, every time you snack or consume acidic drinks your pH drops (acidic environment increases) which leads to demineralization of teeth. The more often you snack, the more often the pH of your saliva drops and the longer your teeth will exist in an acidic environment.
- If you have to snack or consume acidic drinks then try to limit their consumption to mealtimes. So if you eat 3 meals per day the pH of your saliva will drop only 3 times instead of 5 or 6 times if you had eaten in between your meals.
I hope that after reading this article, you have a better idea of foods that are good for your teeth and gums and which foods you should avoid. Surely, after consuming foods that are good for your teeth and gums, you will notice an improvement not only in your oral health but in your overall health as well.
Please click the following links to learn more about the meaning/use of the ingredients inside your toothpaste and the benefits of dental fluoride on your teeth.