Foods that harm: dental health

A well-balanced diet provides the minerals, vitamins and other nutrients essential for healthy teeth and gums. Follow these guidelines to learn more about how diet can affect your dental hygiene.

Foods that harm: dental health

1. Foods that attack teeth

Sucrose, most familiar to us as granulated sugar, is the leading cause of tooth decay, but it is far from the only culprit. Although sugary foods, including cookies, candies and sodas, are major offenders, starchy foods (such as breads and cereals) also play an important part in tooth decay.

When starches mix with amylase, an enzyme in saliva, the result is an acid bath that erodes the enamel and makes teeth more susceptible to decay. If starchy foods linger in the mouth, the acid bath is prolonged, and the potential for damage is all the greater.

Be careful when eating dried fruits. Dried fruits can have an adverse effect on teeth, because they are high in sugar and cling to the teeth. Even unsweetened fruit juices can contribute to tooth decay — they are acidic and contain relatively high levels of simple sugars.

Fresh fruits, especially apples, are better choices. Fresh fruit, although both sweet and acidic, is much less likely to cause a problem, because chewing stimulates the saliva flow. Saliva decreases mouth acidity and washes away food particles. Apples, for example, have been called nature's toothbrush because they stimulate the gums, increase saliva flow and reduce the build-up of cavity-causing bacteria.

A chronically dry mouth also contributes to decay. Saliva flow slows during sleep; going to bed without brushing the teeth is especially harmful. Certain drugs, including those used for high blood pressure, also cut down saliva flow.

2. Gum disease

More teeth are lost through gum disease than through tooth decay. Gum disease is likely to strike anyone who neglects oral hygiene or eats a poor diet. Particularly at risk are people with alcoholism, malnutrition, AIDS/HIV in­fection or those who are being treated with steroid drugs or certain cancer chemotherapies.

Regular brushing and flossing help to prevent puffy, sore and inflamed gums. Gingivitis, a very common condition that causes the gums to redden, swell and bleed, is typically caused by the gradual buildup of plaque. Treatment requires good dental hygiene and removal of plaque by a dentist or dental hygienist. Left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis — an advanced infection of the gums that causes teeth to loosen and fall out.

There may even be more serious consequences of gum disease. Studies have shown a link between poor oral health and heart disease. Bleeding gums apparently provide an entry port for bacteria or viruses that can cause heart problems. Women with tooth or gum problems are also more likely to give birth to premature babies.

Bleeding gums may also be a sign that your intake of vitamin C is deficient. Be sure that your diet includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables every day; munching on hard, fibrous foods, such as a celery stick or carrot, stimulates the gums.

3. Did you know?

Chewing gum sweetened with xylitol helps to counter harmful bacteria in your mouth, which promote cavities. A study showed that people who chewed gum with xylitol after meals had far fewer cavity-causing bacteria in their mouth five minutes afterward than people who chewed other gums or no gum at all.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
Close menu