Your body is a complex machine. The foods you choose and how often you eat them can affect your general health and the health of your teeth and gums.
If you consume too many sugar-filled foods and beverages, you could be at risk for tooth decay. Tooth decay happens when sugar interacts with plaque to produce acid that attacks the teeth, dissolving enamel so that cavities may form.
Tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease, but the good news is that it is entirely preventable.
Foods and beverages that contain sugars of any kind can contribute to tooth decay. Common sources of sugar in the diet include:
- soft drinks
- cookies and pastries
- breakfast cereals
- flavored milk
Check out Foods to Avoid to learn more!
To control the amount of sugar you eat, read the nutrition facts and ingredient labels on foods and beverages, and choose options that are lowest in sugar.
Your physician or a registered dietitian can provide suggestions for eating a nutritious diet. If your diet lacks certain nutrients, it may be more difficult for tissues in your mouth to resist infection. This may contribute to gum disease. Severe gum disease is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Many researchers believe that the disease progresses faster and is potentially more severe in people with poor nutrition.
To learn what foods are best for you, visit ChooseMyPlate.gov, a website from the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The site contains dietary recommendations for children and adults based on their levels of physical activity. If you are on a special diet, follow your physician's advice when choosing foods.
For good dental health, keep these tips in mind when choosing your foods and beverages:
- Drink plenty of water.
- Eat a variety of foods from each of the five major food groups, including:
- whole grains
- lean sources of protein such as lean beef, skinless poultry and fish; dry beans, peas and other legumes
- low-fat and fat-free dairy foods
It’s not only what you eat but when you eat that can affect your dental health.
Foods eaten as part of a meal cause less harm to teeth than eating lots of snacks throughout the day because more saliva is released during a meal. Saliva helps wash foods from the mouth and lessens the effects of acids, which can harm teeth and cause cavities.
Limit between-meal snacks. If you do snack, choose something healthy like:
- a piece of cheese
Research has shown that some foods, including cheese and peanuts, counter the effects of acid attacks. Sugar-free gum with the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance may also help counter acidity.
In addition to following a nutritious diet, always brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste that has the ADA Seal of Acceptance, floss daily and visit your dentist regularly. With routine care, your dentist can help prevent dental problems from occurring in the first place and catch those that do occur in the early stages, while they are easy to treat.