Your mouth: the canary in the coal mine
Your mouth is not only food’s first point of contact, it’s also one of the first places that a health professional may notice the effects of poor nutrition. Problems with oral health are not only a result of poor oral hygiene– your hygiene may be great– but if you aren’t “feeding” your mouth what it needs to be healthy, your smile suffers.
Periodontitis, gingivitis, and other forms of gum disease are some of the key problems that can result from poor nutrition.
For starters, know your food groups
How much you eat depends on a lot of factors– age, gender, and other health conditions (like pregnancy)– but what you eat can pretty squarely applies to everyone, give or take.
According to one of the best online resources for nutrition out there right now, MyPlate, the basic food groups you need to include in your diet multiple times a day are as follows:
- Whole grains. Whether in the form of hot cereal, bread, or the brown rice base to your dinner– whenever possible, your grains are best in the whole package. Valuable nutrients are lost when grains are refined. Take for instance thiamine, an essential vitamin of the B family and important for gum health. It can be found in whole grain rice, but is lost in white rice. Eat whole grains.
- Dairy products. While most adult animals, ourselves included, have lost the ability to digest the milk sugar lactose to at least some degree, there are many delicious milk products at our disposal. Cheese is not only delicious, but also fights cavities. Yogurt is rich in probiotics, which help build the personal microbiomes that fight pathological bacteria in our bodies.
- Vegetables and fruits. You cannot possibly eat enough vegetables. Raw, fresh vegetables carry essential vitamins and minerals that your body uses far more easily than those found in all-in-one vitamin pills. Steamed, cooked, roasted, stewed or fried, from the garden or grocery store– vegetables are your health’s best friend. Fruits also have a powerful nutritive punch, but should be indulged in with greater moderation due to their high sugar content (fructose).
- Protein. A lot of people think of bbqs when they think of protein– and bbqs are delicious– but health authorities find again and again that the best eating strategy for health and longevity is to make the majority of dietary protein plant-based. Beans, peas, and other legumes fit the bill– and save money. Eggs, while high in saturated fat, are a good source, and experts cannot speak highly enough of eating fish at least once a week. Just steer clear of larger fish, like swordfish or tuna, who accumulate large deposits of heavy metals in their bodies over their long lives.
The dental-specific diet
Any health professional can recommend eating well and for a variety of reasons, but your dentist in Eugene, Oregon has dental health in mind first and foremost. Protecting your dental health can make an impact on the rest of your body as well– there is increasing evidence that the two are linked. So how do you eat right for your oral health?
- Skip the snacking. And definitely don’t “graze.” Continuous eating not only adds pounds, but it provides a constant source of food for the bacteria in your mouth as well. Eating discrete meals allows your mouth time to “rinse,” with water and saliva– even brushing, if you’re so inclined. This keeps the chances of cavities to a minimum.
- Avoid sugar. This seems like a no-brainer, but sugar can be sneaky: if you switch out your lunchtime cola with juice, for instance, the juice is likely to have just as high a sugar load as the cola despite its healthier appearance (although the sugar it has is probably better than corn syrup). Trail bars or healthy “fitness” quick foods are often packed with sugar too– be careful to read labels!
- What you eat matters. Sticky candy is obviously out, but even dried fruit can cause problems by clinging to teeth and feeding bacteria after your meal is done. Refined carbohydrates– almost all crackers, pretzels, or snack foods– also stick to teeth. Sadly, citrus and other acidic fruits like tomatoes can eat away at the enamel on your teeth if eaten in excess. Keep an eye on your oral health and choose your food accordingly.
Want more suggestions?
We’re happy to share dental nutrition facts and figures at your next visit. Schedule your appointment with Eugene dentist Dr. Feldmanis today.