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Diet’s role in oral health

Changing your eating habits could help reduce the risk for cavities

The December 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association reminds patients that maintaining a balanced diet is important to maintaining a healthy smile.

Cavities are caused by plaque—a thin film of bacteria that coats the teeth. After you eat or drink, plaque bacteria digest any sugar and produces acids that weaken tooth enamel. The more you consume foods and drink that contain sugar, the bigger risk there is of plaque developing and eventually leading to cavities. The best way to protect your teeth from plaque is to keep an eye on the amount of sugar in your diet.

Almost all foods, including milk or vegetables, have some type of sugar, but 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.

To counter this, it’s important to brush your teeth at least twice a day and to clean between the teeth with floss. When plaque builds up, it can cause the gums to bleed or swell—which, if not treated, could lead to gum disease and tooth loss.

If your diet lacks certain nutrients, it may be more difficult for tissues in your mouth to resist infection. Although poor nutrition does not cause gum (periodontal) disease directly, many researchers believe that the disease progresses faster and could be more severe in people with nutrient-poor diets.

For more information about diet and oral health, visit ada.org.

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

1/03/2011

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