The summer is here and many of us have a change in schedule. This will affect where and what we choose to eat. A critical part of our general health is our dental health. The foods we choose and how we eat them can have a lasting effect on our teeth and gums. This month I will suggest a few important nutrition tips to promote your dental health.
The first suggestion may seem obvious. Limit your intake of sugar! Oral bacteria thrive on carbohydrates. In processing the sugar, they create an acid which erodes tooth enamel and leads to dental decay. The length of time the acid is in the mouth is important to the disease process. The longer the acidity is present, the more damage is done. This leads us to our next suggestion.
Avoid sticky foods! Sticky foods will naturally remain on our tooth surfaces longer. This increases the time with which the bacteria can access the sugar, and the amount of time the acids have to work on your tooth. For this reason, it is wise to eat sticky foods as part of a meal, as opposed to a stand-alone snack. Eating sticky food in a meal helps promote natural cleansing of tooth surfaces from the other foods consumed.
Citrus fruits have excellent health benefits, as we’ve discussed before. However, these too should be eaten with a meal so the acidity does not have a chance to erode our teeth. Eating foods rich in calcium & phosphorus can limit acidity of the saliva, which is another important element of oral health. Remember to drink plenty of water to encourage a wet and healthy mouth. Vitamin C & vitamin D will also encourage healthy teeth and gums.
One food of particular concern is popcorn. Avoid biting heavily on popcorn. I give this suggestion not only to protect your jaw, but also to protect your gums. Pieces of the shell have an amazing ability to slip between your gums and your teeth, sometimes undetected for days until the gum becomes inflamed. Practice effective flossing techniques if you can’t give this snack up.
Hopefully these tips will help you make healthy snacking choices this summer. Protecting the health of your teeth and jaws is our highest priority! We thank you for trusting us with the care of your TMJ. Have a fantastic June!
Nathan J. Pettit DMD, MSD