These days, it seems that everywhere you look there’s a magazine or online article about food and dietary habits. Most of these articles focus on weight loss and the way your diet contributes (or doesn’t contribute) to your general health. But your oral health is also significantly impacted by the dietary choices you make every day. In fact, choosing healthy foods and doing well with hygiene at home are the two most powerful things you can do to prevent gum disease and cavities. With these simple preventive practices, you can maintain a healthy smile for life – with minimal dental work!
HOW DOES YOUR DIET AFFECT YOUR TEETH AND GUMS?
The standard American diet is heavy on starches, carbohydrates, and sugar. When these foods make up the majority of your diet, you’re at much higher risk for getting cavities.
Why? The cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth consume sugars and carbohydrates and produce acid that destroys your enamel. By reducing their “food supply,” you also reduce the amount of acid in your mouth that’s responsible for cavities.
WHAT FOODS SHOULD YOU AVOID OR INCLUDE IN YOUR DIET?
Ideally, you can enjoy everything in moderation, including sugary snacks and beverages as an occasional treat. However, try to minimize the following as much as possible:
- Soda (including diet soda, since it still contains acids that cause decay)
- Carbohydrate-heavy foods like pastries, doughnuts, sugary cereals, and bagels
- Candy – especially anything sticky such as caramel, gummy bears, jelly beans, and toffee
- Sweet treats and desserts
- Energy and sports drinks
- Sweet coffee and tea
As for the foods that will contribute to good oral health, all of the following is recommended:
- Fruits and vegetables of all kinds (particularly citrus fruits and a variety of greens)
- Green tea
- Dairy products
- Lots of water
Also, remember not to graze or snack throughout the day, as this also greatly increases your risk of getting cavities.
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO BRUSH AND FLOSS FOR CAVITY PREVENTION?
Along with making good dietary choices, establishing good hygiene habits at home is the foundation of a healthy smile:
- Use the right tools and products – An electric toothbrush will generally be more effective than a manual because it stays on for 2 minutes and provides 6,000-30,000 brush strokes per minute. Some patients might benefit from adding an oral irrigator to their brushing and flossing routine. Also, nearly everyone can help prevent cavities by using fluoride mouthwash at night, which strengthens the teeth to prevent decay.
- Ask for a demonstration – It’s always a good idea to ask for a brushing and flossing demonstration at your next checkup and cleaning to make sure you’re being effective.
- Aim for better, not perfect – Many people throw in the towel entirely if they miss a night or two of flossing, but remember, simply flossing most nights of the week will really benefit you – even if it’s not perfect.
Don’t forget: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Especially when it comes to your oral health!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Hector Tijerina is a general, cosmetic, and restorative dentist in Austin who focuses on prevention first, treatment second. He always takes the time to help his patients understand how to prevent dental problems so they can minimize their time spent in the dental chair. If you have any additional questions about how your diet is affecting your oral health, he can be reached via his website or at (512) 213-6778