Nutrition and Your Teeth: 5 Things You Should Know

Nutrition and Your Teeth

Your nutrition habits can greatly impact the health of your mouth. The dentists at Fort Collins Family and Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies are as concerned with your current dental health as they are your future dental health.  By taking preventive steps early, you can avoid some of the most common dental issues and problems. Eating a balanced diet is important for your overall health as well as the health of your teeth. Certain food choices greatly impact the strength, color, appearance, and health of your gums and mouth.  Regardless of your age, there are foods that supply essential vitamins and minerals that contribute to the stability and chemistry of your teeth. Educate yourself on how you can eat for a better smile today and tomorrow. Our Fort Collins dental team can help answer any questions you may have on nutrition and your teeth during one of your visits with us.

Exercise and Your Teeth

Diet and nutrition are not the only areas that can impact the health of your teeth.  A Journal of Dentistry study in 2005 found that regular exercise lowers the risk of gum disease–when harmful bacteria invades your gums. Participants in the study who never smoked and who exercised regularly were 54% less likely to have gum disease compared to those who did not exercise.  A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey also showed that partially active people, or those who exercise less than three times per week, were 33% less likely to have gum disease than those who reported no regular physical activity. Physically active people, or those who exercised three to five times a week, reported a 52% lower occurrence of gum disease than the inactive group. Stay active for good health. (Adults should strive for at least two and a half hours of moderate physical activity each week.)


Nutrition That Promotes Healthy Teeth

Healthy teeth start with healthy food choices. Here are some tooth-friendly foods to add to your diet and nutrition goals:

  • Fruits and Vegetables: Reach for fruits and vegetables as a snack instead of carbohydrates. Fruits and Vegetables that contain a high volume of water–such as pears, melons, celery, and cucumber–are best. Foods high in water help balance ingested sugars and help to clean the teeth.  Many fruits and vegetables also contain vitamin C (important for healthy gums and quick healing of wounds) and vitamin A (another key nutrient in building tooth enamel).  Fruits like bananas and raisins are comprised of lots concentrated sugar so make sure you brush your teeth soon after you eat these fruits. Leafy greens are great sources of calcium too.  
  • Dairy: Aged cheeses are best to aid in saliva production. (Saliva can help to rid your teeth of decay-causing food particles.)  Milk, and plain yogurt are also great choices.
  • Protein: Calcium-fortified tofu and almonds can promote good teeth health due to their high calcium properties and other nutrients.  Other great options for protein: meat, poultry, fish, milk and eggs. These foods are also high in phosphorus. Both calcium and phosphorus rebuild and protect your tooth enamel and are vital to your dental health.
  • Water: Helps to wash decay-promoting particles from your teeth. Water is a great choice for hydration because it is sugar-free and helps in the digestion process.  


Nutrition That Can Damage Teeth

There is a long list of foods you should add to your diet for good teeth health and proper nutrition, and there is an equally long list of foods you should remove! Too many carbohydrates, sugar (from cake, cookies, candies, milk, and other sugary foods and beverages), and starches (pretzels, breads and potato chips) can cause tooth decay. How long carbohydrates remain on your teeth is the main factor that leads to tooth decay. Here are a list of foods to watch out for:  

  • Hard candies: Not only can these sweets break your teeth, they are full of sugars bacteria love to feed on.
  • Ice: Ice is great for cooling off a drink, just don’t chew it! This habit can also break your teeth.
  • Citrus foods: Avoid too much of these.  Their acidic nature can erode the enamel of your teeth. Eat them as part of a meal, not by themselves to help wash away their acidic properties.
  • Coffee: Caffeinated coffee and tea can dry out your mouth allowing bacteria to stick your teeth and promote decay. Sugar is often added to sweeten coffee which can also lead to tooth decay.  Frequent coffee and tea can stain your teeth dimming your once brilliant smile.
  • Sticky foods:  Sticky foods adhere to teeth more and are harder to get off. The plaque acids that they produce continue to harm teeth long after you stop eating them. Watch out for dried fruit! (Reach for fresh fruit instead. ) Raisins, dried figs, granola bars, peanut butter, jelly beans, caramel, honey, molasses, and syrup are among some of the popular foods that adhere to your teeth. Rinse your mouth with water and brush and floss carefully immediately after partaking of these types of foods.
  • Crunchy foods: These foods also can break your teeth or get stuck in the crevices between your teeth.
  • Soda:  Reach for water! Not only are carbonated drinks more acidic, they are also commonly full of sugar.  
  • Alcohol: Causes dehydration and dry mouth which can cause decreased saliva flow over time.  Less saliva means your mouth is more prone to tooth decay or gum disease. Heavy alcohol use can also increase your risk for mouth cancer.
  • Sports drinks: While sports drinks can help provide you with necessary hydration and energy during exercise, they are often packed with sugar. Make sure to limit the quantities you consume so you don’t exceed your daily sugar intake.


Let’s Talk About Sugar and Sugar Substitutes

When considering your nutrition goals, remember, not ALL sugars are bad. “We actually need sugar; it’s our body’s preferred fuel,” says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. “But we eat too damn much of it.” Natural occurring sugars found in fruits, some vegetables, and milk are perfectly healthy. It’s added sugar (sweeteners put in during processing and prep) that we need to moderate.Your body DOES need carbohydrates, which are broken down into sugar in your body. This sugar is essential for your body to create energy to survive. However, it is not necessary to include sugary foods or added sugars in the diet in order for your body to make energy. In November 2015, the Food and Drug Administration recommended people over the age of 3 eat no more than 50 grams of sugar a day and it should make up no more than 10 percent of your daily calories.

You can monitor the amount of sugars you are putting into your diet by making a habit of reading the food labels.  Ingredients on food labels are listed according to weight so if sugar is high on the list, beware.  Since bacteria in your mouth feeds off of carbohydrates, cutting down on sugar and other sources of simple carbohydrates that are easily fermentable can help reduce your cavity risk. Another tip for spotting sources of sugar—terms ending in “-ose” indicate a sugar ingredient.

Sugar substitutes (Splenda, Equal and Sunett, aspartame, erythritol, saccharin, sucralose, isomalt, sorbitol, acesulfame potassium and mannitol) have the appearance and taste of sugar but they don’t promote decay-causing acids in your mouth that erode your teeth.


Nutrition and Dental Habits for Healthy Teeth

The Fort Collins Family and Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies team is here to help you obtain and retain optimum oral health. You can help us by incorporating healthy eating habits, good oral hygiene practices, scheduling regular in-office cleanings, and practicing the following to reduce your risk of cavities:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes.  This will help you to remove sugars and food particles from your teeth.
  • Limit between-meal snacking. Leaving food particles on your teeth between brushing causes tooth decay.
  • Watch your sugar intake. Monitor how much sugar you are having a day and keep added sugar in your diet to a minimum. Lollipops, hard candies, cough drops, and mints all contribute to tooth decay because they continuously coat the teeth with sugar.
  • Eat for good health. Include dairy, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and water in your diet—they all play a role in your dental health.
  • Monitor baby’s bedtime bottles. Never put your baby to bed with a bottle filled with milk, formula, juice, or soda. Even if you don’t see teeth buds yet, your baby’s gums, teeth, and oral health can be adversely affected by the lingering sugars.  
  • Reach for water. Choose water instead of juice or soda. Juices, sodas, and even milk contain sugar. Water does not harm the teeth and aids in washing away any food particles that may be clinging to teeth.
  • Include calcium in your diet. Calcium helps build strong teeth. Good sources for calcium include: yogurt, broccoli, and milk.

If you would like to know more about nutrition and what you can do to preserve your smile, or if you would like to make an appointment, call our Fort Collins office today at (970) 223-8425. You can also reach us after office hours by submitting a contact or appointment request online using the form below.