Two of the most common diseases in this century are tooth decay (dental cavities) and periodontal (gum) disease. Fortunately, you can prevent both of these by improving your diet.

Tooth decay can be increased dramatically by eating foods that cling to your teeth. You’ll want to avoid soft, sweet, sticky foods like candy, dried fruits, cakes, and muffins. Instead, choose dental healthy snacks like raw vegetables, plain yogurt, cheese, and nuts.

Keep your mouth moist at all times. This is especially true as you age and your mouth naturally dries out. The enzymes present in saliva work to protect both the soft and hard oral tissues.

A well-balanced diet is imperative to maintaining not only your body’s immune system, but the bacterial growth in your mouth. Fad diets are dangerous to your oral health as they usually promote an imbalance of food groups that are necessary for keeping your mouth and teeth healthy. You need those vitamins and minerals to resist infection. Poor nutrition can make a person more susceptible to periodontal disease as a result.

Fermentable carbohydrates like crackers, cookies, and chips should be eaten as part of a meal, rather than on their own. The reason is simple. Fermentable carbohydrates work with bacteria to form the acids that start the decay process. These acids dissolve necessary minerals inside tooth enamel. This process, called demineralization, allows the tooth to decay from within the enamel. The balance must be maintained. Saliva, fluoride, and some foods can help in the remineralization process. Don’t give up on your fermentable carbohydrates. They, too, are a necessary part of your diet. Simply combine them with something that can neutralize the acids being formed. Cheese and crackers are an excellent example. As an aside, aged cheese eaten immediately after other foods can help buffer the acid.

These acids don’t go away once the food is removed from your teeth. They can remain for up to half an hour longer. Keep this in mind if you tend to sip sugared coffee, tea, sodas, or fruit juices throughout the day. These can create an extensively acidic environment that can increase your decay at an exponential rate.

Here are some ways to maintain good nutrition and dental hygiene to keep your teeth healthy:

  1. Eat whole grains daily instead of refined grains.
  2. Choose healthier vegetables in the dark green and orange variety.
  3. Eat a variety of fruits.
  4. Fish, beans, nuts, and seeds are excellent sources of protein.
  5. Moderate your sugar intake and restrict it to certain times instead of all-day sips.
  6. Fruits and vegetables should take up half of your plate
  7. Limit between-meal snacking. If you do snack, stay away from fermentable carbohydrates. Cheese, chicken or other meats, and nuts have been proven to protect teeth enamel by neutralizing acids and/or providing the phosphorus and calcium needed to put minerals back your teeth. Firm fruits like apples and pears as well as vegetables can do in a pinch. While they do have natural sugars, their high water content dilutes it significantly. They can also promote the flow of saliva.
  8. Limit very acidic foods like citrus fruits because it contributes to the loss of minerals in the teeth.
  9. Brush your teeth after eating and drinking sugary drinks. This includes sugar-free soft drinks as well. The acid content can erode your teeth.
  10. Brush your teeth at least twice a day.

As always, check with your primary care doctor about changes to your diet. Take care of your teeth and they will take care of you.

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