Nutrition and Oral Health

hqdefaultAs dental hygienists we know that sugar, sweets, and carbonated beverages increase the risk of caries whereas fruits and vegetables stimulate saliva production to wash away food and neutralize acids in the mouth. Additionally, we know that water is a better alternative to soda pop. Soda pop, diet or regular, includes tooth damaging acids and, in the case of the latter, also contains large quantities of sugar which can promote tooth decay.

The general public understands that foods high in sugar and fat, excess salt and carbonated, sugary, beverages do not promote optimal health and wellness. On the flip side, most people understand that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, low fat dairy products and meat alternatives (like beans, lentils and other legumes) contributes to overall health wellness and lowers the risk of many diseases.

Even with this understanding, it is alarming that the average Canadian consumes roughly the equivalent of 40kgs of sugar each year. Sugar of course is one of the leading causes of oral health issues, and is also responsible for systemic inflammation in the body which in turn promotes disease and other health issues. While we know that eliminating sugar entirely is difficult, it is possible for people to avoid foods that are more harmful to oral and overall health.

As health care professionals we must be proactive in supporting healthy diets and helping our patients/clients understand the overall impact of the foods we choose to eat.  Dental hygienists and other oral health professionals therefore advise to practice moderation for the following foods:

  • Chewy or sticky foods- easily stuck to the teeth
  • Sugary snacks – high in sugar
  •  Carbonated soft drinks – high in sugar and acid
  •  Fruit drinks – often high in sugar
  • Sports/energy drinks- often high in sugar and acid
  • Acidic food and beverages- foods such as lemons, pickles, salad dressing and wine.

(Source: https://odha.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Nutrition-14-1-final.pdf )

Poor nutrition impacts the entire body in numerous harmful ways. The immune system can be compromised which leaves people susceptible to many disorders including periodontal disease. Numerous studies have also shown the clear link between oral health and systemic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.  Eating well therefore is not only beneficial for your oral health but reduces the risk of disease.

We, as primary health care providers, have a responsibility to follow the advice our Mom’s gave us-  eat your veggies and drink lots of water for good overall and oral health. Your body and your teeth will thank you!