All this week, we are celebrating “Nutrition and Hydration Week”. The saying “you are what you eat”, is particularly true especially when it comes to our oral health. Processed foods that are high in starch and sugar cause a disturbance in the normal balance between bacteria in our mouth. (WHO, 2018) This results in the increased production of bacteria in plaque biofilm that are harmful to our oral health causing both decay in our teeth and gingivitis in our gums. (WHO, 2018, HSE 2021) Therefore, our diet and nutrition plays a vital role in a healthy, confident smile.
In order to achieve good oral health, we must eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods from all of the food groups, this will help to promote healthy teeth and gums.
“Good Nutrition creates health in all areas of our existence. All parts are interconnected.”
Checklist of Food & Drinks to include in your diet for good Oral Health:
- Crunchy or chewy nutritious foods (e.g. celery, uncooked carrots etc.) encourage saliva to be produced, which along with water, will help to wash away any leftover food that may cause plaque build-up if left untouched.
- Fruits and vegetables are some of the best foods as they are packed with nutrients and have the added teeth cleaning benefits as mentioned previously.
- Calcium rich foods (e.g. low-fat milk, tofu, leafy green vegetables etc.) help keep our teeth and bones strong.
- High protein foods (e.g. meat, tofu) are beneficial for preparing any tissue damage in the oral cavity.
- Wholegrain carbohydrates (e.g. wholewheat bread or pasta) contain sugars that are more complex to break down which stops bacteria attaching and growing on them.
- Tap Water is the best drink of choice as it contains no acids or sugars that could harm our teeth and gums. In addition, it does contain fluoride which helps to protect and repair our teeth from cavities. Water helps to keep you hydrated for saliva production and helps wash away food particles.
- Alternatively, black or green teas are beneficial as they contain polyphenols which have many health benefits, including a role as antioxidants which may help to reduce inflammation throughout our body including our mouth.
TOP TIP: Try to think of a rainbow/ different colours to add to your plate at every meal to ensure you are consuming a range of different nutrients.
“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients”
Foods to enjoy in moderation/ limited amounts:
We all love a treat from time to time and it can be hard to say no to a chocolate bar but remember, moderation is key here. Foods and beverages such as chocolate, alcohol, confectionery etc, contain ‘Free Sugars’. ‘Free Sugars’ are a major factor in poor oral health. The most significant way nutrition and diet affects our oral health is in the development of dental decay and enamel erosion. (WHO, 2018) A high ‘free sugars’ intake is primarily linked to dental decay and dietary acids present in sports drinks and smoothies are closely linked to enamel erosion. (Pitchika et al., 2020, Yang et al., 2021)
TOP TIP: The different names for sugar on food labels are – glucose, sucrose, maltose, corn syrup honey, invert sugar, hydrolysed starch and fructose. Look for the carbohydrate on the label, and look at ‘of which sugars’ and see how much sugar the item contains per 100g.
- More than 22.5g per 100g is high
- Less than 5g per 100g is low
To improve and protect your oral health and in fact, overall health, ensure you focus on changing your diet, but also, you need to have a good oral health routine
- Brush your teeth and gums with toothpaste containing Fluoride with 1450 parts per million at least twice a day.
- Spit out but do not rinse out your mouth after brushing. This keeps protective fluoride levels in your saliva high throughout the day.
- Use interdental cleaners as well as brushing to clean your gums if advised to do so by your dentist or hygienist.
- Visit your dentist once a year or more regularly if advised to do so by your dentist.
To start, you could pick a few changes from this blog to add to your diet and then build upon this. Little steps can make a big difference.