We’ve all heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” Not only is this true when we talk about a healthy body, but even more so when it comes to your teeth and gums. When you drink and eat starchy or sugary foods, you’re not only feeding yourself. You’re also feeding the bacteria that can cause tooth decay and gum disease in your mouth. Carbonated beverages, like energy drinks and soda, are not only loaded with sugar but also contain phosphoric and citric acids that wear away the enamel of your teeth. Alcoholic beverages and some medications can dry out the mouth by decreasing the flow of saliva. Saliva is an important part of a healthy body. Studies show that saliva protects against gum disease, tooth decay and other oral infections. A thin film of saliva covers teeth and buffers against bacteria, while antimicrobial agents in saliva kill disease-causing bacteria. And last but not least, sticky candies and sweets with refined sugars that adhere to the gum tissues and enamel are absolutely a thumbs down.
Some foods and beverages that are healthy for the body are not always a safe choice for a healthy mouth. Truth be told, there are a number of things that do a body good but have an adverse effect on the hard and soft tissues in the mouth but also the good bacteria within the mouth. For example, crunching on ice. You’d be surprised at how many people think ice is good for their teeth. It’s made of water, after all, and doesn’t contain any sugar or other additives. But chewing on hard substances can leave your teeth vulnerable to chipping, fractures and damaged enamel. Drinking water infused with a few lemon wedges or a few drops of the natural liquid concentrate has a multitude of health benefits. It promotes hydration, gives you a little extra boost of vitamin C, aids in digestion, improves skin quality, AND helps with weight loss. BUT, frequently exposing your teeth and gums to acidic foods and liquids can erode enamel, making teeth more susceptible to decay over time.
In addition to playing havoc on the hard tissues in the mouth acidic substances can cause or irritate mouth sores on the soft tissues. Nuts and dehydrated fruits are a wonderful snack alternative to chips or cookies. They are a great way to introduce additional vitamins, proteins and healthy fats into the body systems. However, similar to crunching on ice, hard foods such as nuts can fracture and chip the protective enamel on our teeth. The sugars in dehydrated fruits and berries can adhere to the gum tissue and enamel and can cause decay.
We don’t advise to NOT eat or drink any of the delicious things mentioned above but when incorporating these things into your diet be conscience, kind and courteous to your teeth and gums. Brush or rinse after each meal with oral hygiene products that contain xylitol. Rinse your mouth out with water after eating or drinking anything acidic. Chew sugarless gum or gum that contains xylitol.
Cheese, milk, plain yogurt and other dairy products are very beneficial to your teeth. The calcium in cheese, and the calcium and phosphates in milk and other dairy products, help put minerals back in your teeth they may have lost due to other foods. They also help rebuild tooth enamel.
Green and black teas contain polyphenols that interact with plaque bacteria. These substances either kill or hold back bacteria. This prevents bacteria from growing or making acid that attacks teeth.
Leafy greens (spinach, lettuce, kale), apples, pears, celery, carrots and other crunchy veggies and fruit not only help clean the surfaces of the teeth when chewing but also are loaded with fibers, vitamins and minerals your teeth and body crave such as calcium, folic acid, vitamin C, calcium and keratins to name a few. All these fruits and veggies are fibrous and stimulate saliva flow. Remember, saliva is your best natural defense against cavities and gum disease. They also help clean the hard surfaces of your teeth and act as a natural type of floss or stimulant that aids in healthy gum tissues.
Our mouth is the eye into our body so to speak. Most things we eat and drink are OK in moderation. There are just some things out there that are better for the body and benefit it as a whole. Unfortunately, we can’t divide it into individual departments that all function separately from each other. Our body is a complex system and each system has its own responsibility, but they intertwine to function as a whole. It is our responsibility to help keep our system happy and functioning and being mindful of what we are putting into our system.
Written by Nicole Dean, Office Manager for Dr. William J. Twohig DDS. Nicole has been working in the dental field for 14 years now, many of which were spent as a chairside assistant. She is certified in CPR and has also trained in cross coding for medical/dental billing, medical law and ethics, healthcare customer service, and health in the human body and disease.