Your body requires a number of nutrients for optimal health, and your teeth and gums are no exception. The best way to ensure you are receiving enough vitamins and minerals is to eat primarily whole foods and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Nutrients for Teeth and Gums
Your local dentist can provide more details on nutrients required for healthy teeth and gums. The following are a few examples of key vitamins and minerals that contribute to good oral health:
- Calcium (e.g. dairy products) helps keep teeth strong.
- Phosphorous (e.g. eggs, chicken, halibut, beef) is stored in the teeth and helps in the absorption of calcium.
- Vitamin D (e.g. trout, salmon, tuna, egg yolk, milk) supports the absorption of calcium and phosphorus.
- Vitamin A (e.g. pumpkin, carrots, sweet potato, mango, spinach, broccoli) is necessary for the formation of tooth enamel.
- Vitamin C (e.g. citrus fruits, cantaloupe, strawberries, tomatoes, cabbage) contributes to healthy gums.
- Omega-3 fatty acids (e.g. walnuts, flaxseed, seafood and fish oils) are thought to reduce inflammation-induced gum tissue loss.
Food Choices and Acid Erosion
When acidic food and drinks linger in the mouth it can soften the surface of the teeth and lead to acid erosion. Softened enamel is linked to tooth sensitivity and an increased chance of tooth decay. The biggest culprits are soft drinks, citrus fruits, and juices. To avoid acid erosion, try not to consume acidic food or drinks between meals. After meals, wait approximately 1 hour before brushing your teeth since brushing with an acidic substance in your mouth will only cause more damage. You can also finish a meal with a dairy product like yogurt, cheese, or milk to help neutralise the acid in the mouth. If enamel erosion is a concern for you, speak to you family dentist for more information.
Smoking and Oral Health
In addition to making healthy food choices, it is important to remember that all types of tobacco including cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco are harmful for your teeth and gums. Tobacco has been linked to:
- Gum disease,
- Tooth loss,
- Oral cancer, and
- Cancer of the esophagus.
The Link Between Obesity and Oral Health
The best way to maintain a well-balanced and nutritious diet is to reduce your consumption of processed foods, refined grains, and fried foods; choose water or unsweetened herbal tea over sugary beverages; and stick mostly to whole foods, fruits, and vegetables.
A diet that includes more high-fat, high-calorie, processed, and low-fiber foods is linked to both oral health issues and obesity. In addition, obesity is linked to increased inflammation, which when present in the gums can create pockets for bacteria to develop and lead to gum disease.
In North America nearly two out of three people are overweight or obese. There is a two way relationship between oral health and obesity, since bad diet choices lead to oral health issues, and poor oral health (especially missing teeth and pain in the mouth) often leads to an increased risk of becoming obese due to the inability to chew healthy foods that are high in nutrients and fibre.
When it comes to health (including your teeth and gums), the best prevention against issues is to start good habits early. Speak to your local dentist if you have questions about how to improve your oral health routine, or about choosing healthy food and drinks for your teeth and gums.