Connection Between Food, Oral Health "Strong"

Dentists have long cautioned that poor nutrition can lead to all kinds of health issues, including oral health problems such as gum disease and cavities.

Now the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals has published a position paper further emphasizing the food-oral health link. There is a strong connection between the food people eat and their oral health, says the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“Oral Health and Nutrition” was published in the May 2013 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and can be found on the Academy’s website, The paper states: “It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that nutrition is an integral component of oral health. The Academy supports integration of oral health with nutrition services, education and research. Collaboration between dietetics practitioners and oral health care professionals is recommended for oral health promotion and disease prevention and intervention.”

According to the Academy’s position paper, dental caries—also known as tooth decay—“is the most prevalent, chronic, common and transmissible infectious oral condition in humans.” In addition, a person’s overall health can be affected by tooth loss, since “declining periodontal health” can lead to diminished dietary quality because of lack of essential nutrients in a person’s diet.

The paper underscores the fact that oral health problems can be prevented by:

  • Eating a healthy balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy products and whole grains that provide essential nutrients for optimum oral health and overall health.
  • Practicing good oral hygiene, such as brushing teeth with fluoridated toothpaste twice a day, drinking fluoridated water and seeking regular oral health care. “As knowledge of the connection between oral and nutrition health increases, it highlights the importance of dietetics practitioners and oral health care professionals to provide screening, education and referrals as part of comprehensive client/patient care,” according to the authors of the Academy’s position paper.

“Collaborative endeavors between dietetics, dentistry, medicine and allied health professionals in research, education and delineation of practice roles are needed to ensure comprehensive health care,” the authors say.

Registered dietitians Riva Touger-Decker, Ph.D., professor and department chair at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Health Related Professions and New Jersey Dental School; and Connie Mobley, Ph.D., associate dean of research and professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas School of Dental Medicine, wrote the paper.

Through patient education materials and its website,, the American Dental Association advises patients that eating a balanced, nutritious diet is essential to healthy living. Studies show that people who have lost teeth or wear dentures don’t eat as many fruits or vegetables and tend to have less nutritious diets overall.

Since your mouth is your body’s initial point of contact with the nutrients you consume, what you put into it impacts not only your general health but also the health of your teeth and gums. If your nutrition is poor, the first signs often show up in your oral health.

The ADA supports the recommendations of MyPlate, a website from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, in stating that a balanced diet should include:

  • Fruits and vegetables. Combined these should be half of what you eat every day.
  • Grains. Make sure at least half of the grains you eat are whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread and brown rice.
  • Dairy. Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy foods.
  • Lean proteins. Make lean protein choices, such as lean beef, skinless poultry and fish. Try and vary your protein choices to include eggs, beans, peas and legumes, too. Eat at least 8 ounces of seafood a week.

In addition, visiting a dentist two times a year for checkups and cleanings will help your dentist monitor your oral health and recommend dietary changes.

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Tips for a Healthy Diet

  • Foods high in sugar are a particularly common cause of tooth decay. Making these foods a treat rather than a staple will help protect your teeth.

  • To maintain a balanced diet, eat a variety of foods from each of the five major food groups.

  • When choosing a snack, go for nutritious foods such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt or a piece of fruit.