March is National Nutrition Month, an effort to bring attention to the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. The theme for 2017 is “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” a reminder that when it comes to nutrition, each bite counts.
The mouth, teeth and gums are essential for chewing and swallowing — the first steps in the digestion process, which delivers needed nutrients into the body. In addition, if your nutrition is poor, the first signs often show up in your mouth.
In celebration of National Nutrition Month, here are a few helpful things to know about nutrition and your dental health from MouthHealthy.org, the ADA’s consumer website:
- Follow the recommended nutritional guidelines. Your individual nutrition and calorie needs depend on your age, gender, level of physical activity and other health factors. However, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a balanced and healthy diet should include fruits and vegetables; grains, especially whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice and whole wheat bread; low-fat or fat-free dairy foods; and lean protein choices.
- Stay away from foods that harm your dental health. Empty calorie foods such as candy, sweets and snack foods are a cause for dental concern, not only because they offer no nutritional value, but because the amount and type of sugar that they contain can adhere to teeth. The bacteria in your mouth feed off these sugars, releasing acids, which can lead to tooth decay. In addition, sugar-containing drinks — soda, lemonade, juice and sweetened coffee or tea — are particularly harmful because sipping them causes a constant sugar bath over teeth, which promotes tooth decay.
- Eat foods that benefit dental health. Cheese, milk, plain yogurt, calcium-fortified tofu, leafy greens and almonds are foods that may benefit tooth health thanks to their high amounts of calcium and other nutrients they provide. Protein-rich foods like meat, poultry, fish, milk and eggs are good sources of phosphorus, which along with calcium, plays a critical role in dental health by protecting and rebuilding tooth enamel. In addition, fruits and vegetables are high in water and fiber, which balance the sugars they contain and help to clean the teeth.
For more information on nutrition and oral health, visit MouthHealthy.org.© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.