Overview

Proper nutrition means eating a well-balanced diet so that your body can get the nutrients needed for good health and wellness. If your diet is low in the nutrients your body needs, your mouth may have a more difficult time resisting 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.

If you’re caring for children, a balanced diet along with good oral hygiene habits will help them develop strong, decay-resistant teeth. Pay particular attention to calcium, phosphorous and proper levels of fluoride.

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 food in the mouth, acid is produced that attacks the teeth. This can eventually lead to tooth decay, if flossing and tooth brushing are not completed on a regular basis.

Understanding

A poor diet can lead to gum disease and tooth decay. Foods high in carbohydrates, sugars and starches greatly contribute to the production of plaque acids that attack the tooth enamel. Eventually, these acids can cause tooth enamel to break down, forming a cavity.

If you do eat foods high in sugar or starch, try to eat them during meals, rather than between meals, and avoid any foods that stick to your teeth, because these can produce more plaque. Saliva production rises during meals, which can help rinse food and acids from the mouth.

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; these foods 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 are often present in soft drinks, candy, cookies and pastries.

Planning

Keeping teeth healthy, whether your own or your children's, depends on several factors. You know you should floss once a day, brush your teeth twice a day, and see your dentist regularly, but your diet also plays a role in the health of your teeth. Foods high in sugar are a particularly common cause of tooth decay. You don’t need to avoid them altogether, but making them a treat rather than a staple will help protect your teeth for years to come. Consider adding some foods low in sugar to your regular meal plan to increase both your family's general health and that of their teeth.

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.

Other Info About Nutrition and Oral Health

Always make sure you’re practicing great oral care habits. Brushing twice a day and flossing daily will help to control plaque development and use of a tongue scraper will help control odor causing bacteria that form on the tongue. Use of floss is important to keep the spaces in between your teeth clean. Regular dental visits twice a year for a check-up and professional cleaning are also excellent steps.