Nutrition and healthy teeth

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While brushing and flossing are essential to a healthy smile, did you know that practicing a healthy nutrition will help with healthy teeth as well?

Eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods from all the food groups promotes healthy teeth and gums. A balanced eating plan that includes fruits, vegetables, protein foods, grains and dairy provides essential nutrients for optimum oral health as well as overall health.

Foods for Optimum Oral Health

Calcium-rich foods, such as low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese, and fortified soymilk help promote strong teeth and bones. Other sources of calcium include tofu (made with calcium sulphate), canned salmon, almonds, and some dark green leafy vegetables.

Phosphorus, a mineral found in eggs, fish, lean meat, dairy, nuts, and beans is good for strong teeth.

Vitamin C promotes gum health, so eat plenty of sources, including citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, potatoes, and spinach.

Smart snacking also can keep your mouth in good shape. Resist the urge to snack frequently – the more often you eat, especially between meals, the more likely you are to introduce acid attacks on your teeth. If you do snack, choose wisely. Forgo sugary treats such as hard or sticky candy and opt for nutritious choices such as raw vegetables, fruits, plain yogurt, and popcorn. Remember to brush after snacking to keep cavities at bay. If you cannot brush, rinse your mouth with water to get rid of food particles.

What do you need for healthy teeth and gums, and why? Below is a handy chart.

Nutrient What you need it for
Protein Tooth structure, mucosal/connective tissue development, and immune function.
Calcium Tooth structure; may enhance enamel remineralisation.
Phosphorus Tooth structure.
Zinc Mucosal/connective tissues and immune function.
Antioxidants Mucosal/connective tissues and immune function.
Folate Mucosal/connective tissues and immune function; low levels are associated with periodontal disease.
Iron Mucosal/connective tissues and immune function.
Vitamin A Mucosal/connective tissues and immune function. But be aware that getting too much from supplements may result in gum problems.
Vitamin C Collagen maturation and to maintain the integrity of the periodontal ligament; mucosal/connective tissues and immune function.
Omega-3 Fats Mucosal/connective tissues and immune function; modulates the inflammatory response.
Vitamin D Mucosal/connective tissues, immune function; may enhance enamel remineralisation.
B Vitamins Epithelial cell turnover.

So, what do you think should you do?

Get your oral hygiene on. Follow the steps below.

Brush your teeth – With fluoride-based toothpaste at least twice a day.

Avoid smoking – Smoking can wreak havoc on gum and tooth health.

Drink green tea – Drinking green tea improves the health of your teeth and gums, as it decreases inflammation, makes your mouth more alkaline, inhibits the growth of cavity-causing bacteria, prevents tooth loss, may slow progression of oral cancer, and freshens breath by killing odour-causing bacteria.

Chew sugar-free gum after meals – Gum increases saliva production and prevents the bacteria in your mouth from producing the acids that cause cavities.

Follow a balanced diet – Eat mostly whole, nutrient-rich foods that provide plenty of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin K (especially K2) and vitamin D. Foods like leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, cheeses, plain yogurt, meats, beans, mushrooms, fish, eggs, and organ meats are good nutrition.

If possible, eat raw, crunchy fruits and vegetables regularly. Raw veggies clean your teeth to a degree (apples, carrots, bell peppers, etc). Eating an apple as dessert after lunch will help to remove material that has adhered to the surface of your teeth.

Increase the amount of arginine in your diet. Eat more spinach, lentils, nuts, eggs, whole grains, meat, seafood, and soy.

Exercise regularly – Get regular exercise. Exercise seems to protect against periodontal disease. Maintain a lean/healthy body composition. Excess body fat can promote poor systemic health, including poor oral health.

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