A Healthy Diet Means a Healthy Mouth

August 9, 2012

Understanding what foods are good or bad for your teeth is crucial to keeping a healthy smile.

Diet has a significant effect on dental health. While poor nutrition can contribute to tooth decay and cavities, good nutrition can prevent dental problems and make the teeth stronger. From infancy to old age, a balanced diet is just as essential for the teeth as it is important for general health.

The modern Western diet contains a mixture of carbohydrates, like sugars, that are fermented by oral bacteria in the mouth. The fermentation process produces acid, which left unchecked, can lead to cavities.

Both the amount and frequency of sugar consumption are factors for dental health. Constant grazing of sugar-laden foods contributes to demineralization and does not allow the saliva enough time to neutralize the harmful acids.

Some foods actually protect the teeth against cavities and other forms of decay. Cow’s milk, for instance, contains a sugar that does not promote cavities because it is also loaded with calcium, the protein casein and phosphate. These nutrients have a protective effect on the teeth, despite the sugar in milk.

Cheese also reduces the risk of developing dental cavities. Eating cheese encourages saliva production, which in turn neutralizes cavity-causing acids. Cheese also increase the concentration of calcium in plaque, which helps halt demineralization.

Choosing dairy products, whole grains, lean sources of protein, fruits and vegetables instead of sugary, processed foods can lead to better dental health. For optimal dental health, avoid snacking in between meals, drink plenty of water and avoid chewy or sticky foods that stay in your mouth for longer periods of time.