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Food choices can affect your oral health

Many dentists are concerned that their patients are consuming record numbers of sugar-filled sodas, sweetened fruit drinks, and non-nutritious snacks that affect their teeth. These foods generally have little if any nutritional value and over time they can take a toll on teeth.

Eating patterns and food choices among children and teens are important factors that affect how quickly youngsters may develop tooth decay. When bacteria come into contact with sugar in the mouth, acid is produced that attacks the teeth for 20 minutes or more. This can eventually result in tooth decay.

Foods that contain sugars of any kind can contribute to tooth decay. Almost all foods, including milk and vegetables, contain some type of sugar; however; they are a necessary part of a healthy diet because many of them also contain important nutrients. To help control the amount of sugar you consume, read food labels and choose foods and beverages that are low in added sugars. Added sugars often are present in soft drinks, candy, cookies and pastries.

If your diet lacks certain nutrients, it may be more difficult for tissues in your mouth to resist infection. This may contribute to periodontal disease, a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Although poor nutrition does not cause periodontal disease directly, many researchers believe that the disease progresses faster and can be more severe in people with nutrient-poor diets.

To maintain a balanced diet, eat a variety of foods from each of the five major food groups and limit the number of snacks you eat. If you do snack, choose nutritious foods such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt, or a piece of fruit. And remember that foods eaten as part of a meal cause less harm because the saliva released helps wash foods from the mouth and lessen the effects of acids.

For more information about the nutrients, vitamins and minerals needed by your body (and your teeth and gums), visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Web site at www.mypyramid.gov. The USDA's dietary recommendations are designed to promote optimal health and to prevent obesity-related diseases including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and cancers.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

4/20/2009

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