When viewing the body as a complicated machine, it’s easy to understand how the foods we eat affect our overall health. Fuel the machine with a properly balanced diet, and you provide it the energy needed to get through the day. Fuel your body with foods that don’t offer enough needed vitamins and nutrients, and you begin to feel sluggish and tired.
A poor diet does more than drain you of energy and expand your waistline, it can also affect the health of your teeth and gums. Americans are consuming more sugar in their diets now than in any point in history. This has caused many dentists to become concerned about the long term health of patients teeth due to the increasingly high number of sodas, sweetened fruit drinks, and empty calorie snacks people consume on a daily basis. Since most people learn their current dietary habits at a young age, long term eating patterns can determine their overall oral health as an adult.
Every time you consume sugar, the sticky bacteria that clings to your teeth known as plaque begins to produce an acid that eats away at your teeth’s enamel for at least 20 minutes. Given enough time, and plaque can cause tooth decay and gum disease. Since plaque uses sugar as fuel to produce teeth damaging acids, diets high in sugar provide plaque more than enough fuel to do permanent damage to the health of your teeth.
What concerns dentists the most about high sugar diets is the frequent amount of snacking that occurs throughout the day. If, for example, a person drinks three cans a soda a day without immediately brushing afterward, that’s at least 60 minutes worth of damage done to your teeth’s enamel by plaque. If drinking this much soda daily has been part of that person’s diet since they were a child or a teenager, that’s a lot of damage done by plaque to the health of their teeth by the time they become an adult. The sugar found in cookies, candy bars, pastries, energy drinks, sweetened fruit juice, and any other type of midday or late night snack also have the same potential of damaging your teeth as a can of soda.
A poor diet can also deprive your body of needed nutrients that help the tissue in your mouth fight off infection, which could result in the development of periodontal disease, one of the major causes of adult tooth loss. While a poor diet cannot cause periodontal disease, researcher have found evidence that suggests the disease progresses faster in individuals you suffer from poor nutrition.
Fortunately, by controlling and monitoring your diet, you can help ensure your teeth and gums remain healthy. You can do this in several ways:
- Eat a variety of foods to ensure a balanced diet. Fruits and vegetables contain lower levels of sugar than starches and carbohydrates, so be sure to maintain an equal balance in your diet so you can decrease the amount of sugar you consume daily, while getting plenty of nutrients.
- Cut back on the number of times you snack throughout the day. Whenever you do snack, eat a piece of fruit, a serving of vegetables, some yogurt, or a slice of cheese instead of reaching for a less healthy alternative.
- Your mouth produces high levels of saliva during bigger meals that helps to wash away excess food particles and plaque acids. Since your mouth produces much less saliva while snacking, food eaten outside of a big meal does more damage to your teeth because harmful acids are not washed away. If you can’t brush immediately after a snack, make sure to rinse your mouth out with water instead.
Don’t forget, in addition to practicing a healthy diet, you also need continue to brush at least twice a day and floss daily, and make sure to schedule regular appointments with Drs. Doyel and Aanderud for regular checkups and cleanings.