Diet & Dental Health
There used to be a time where making choices around food seemed to be a lot simpler than today. With so many recommendations around food choices, I thought it might be overkill to add a “dental diet” to the list. Instead, I’d like to discuss some simple suggestions around timing and how you consume your meals to assist with your dental health.
We only developed an understanding of how dental decay works in the mid-1960's. Essentially, everyone has an oral flora: a population of bacteria that vary from individual to individual. These bacteria form a film – “biofilm” – that coats the surfaces of your mouth, including your teeth. Some bacteria produce energy by consuming carbohydrates: the waste products are acids. It is these acids in the plaque that cause decay by dissolving tooth structure.
The most powerful antidote to these acids is Saliva. Saliva contains agents that neutralise acids and remineralise tooth structure that has been deteriorated by the acids apart from a multitude of other actions. In short, saliva is a brilliant tonic.
Generally, the better the quality and quantity of your saliva, the lower your experience of decay and the higher your experience of gum disease (since you build more tartar (i.e. scale). People who produce lesser quality and quantity of saliva are more prone to decay and generally have a lesser experience of gum disease.
With this basic understanding, we can make some simple recommendations around diet:
Endeavour to consume whole foods as much as possible (obvious?)
Endeavour (as much as possible) to have three main meals per day. Don’t be so concerned about what you consume at these meals – if you care to eat foods that are bad for your teeth, high in sugar or acidic, consume them with or in conjunction with your main meals. As a rule – endeavour to avoid soft drinks altogether (fruit juices are virtually the same as soft drinks). If you must consume a soft drink, consume it with one of your main meals.
In between your three main meals do not drink soft drinks! This is a recovery period for your mouth. You can consume tea and coffee (preferably without sugar), water, whole fruit, cheese, nuts (without dried fruit which is very sweet and sticky) and vegetables. Avoid carbohydrate-laden foods such as biscuits and bread. To maintain alertness without excessive tea or coffee, try chewing sugar-free (preferably xylitol-containing) gum. Chewing gum is proven to improve alertness and stimulates saliva flow, and xylitol has been demonstrated to impede your oral bacteria’s ability to produce acids.
I have patients who work rolling shifts and sometimes need to consume energy (soft) drinks. The rule for shift workers is this – if you need to consume these energy drinks, drink them from a can and straight down the hatch (if not in 1 gulp then in only a few). Do not sip on these drinks as it increases exposure. Reserve these energy drinks for when you really need them and try to make better choices at other times during your day.
Finish each meal with a glass of water and ensure you drink adequate water as being well hydrated improves alertness and allows the proper production of saliva. At Belledental, we recommend patients consider chewing a xylitol-containing sugar-free gum after meals that can also remineralise your teeth.
Follow a regular, thorough, routine of home care, cleaning between your teeth with either floss or small brushes, followed by tooth brushing with an extra soft toothbrush using a fluoride-containing toothpaste. No amount of cleaning of your teeth can overcome poor food choices in violation of these timing protocols.
Pretty simple really! For more information, visit www.belledental.com.au