Sunday, September 9, 2007

Your Diet and Dental Health

Remember how often as a kid your mom used to restrict the number of chocolates or sweets you ate saying that they were bad for the teeth. Thanks to her you probably have a perfect set of pearly whites. It's true that your dental health is related to what you eat. In fact bad food is the main culprit for poor dental health.

Diet and tooth development

The development of oral cavity and teeth formation depends on adequate nutrients. Vitamins A, C and D and minerals such as fluoride and calcium play a very important role in the development of hard and soft tissues of the mouth during the early development as well as throughout life. Studies have shown that even a single incidence of malnutrition in the first phase of life, can severely affect the oral cavity development and also cause increased incidence of caries in the later phase of life.

Diet and dental decay

Dental decay or caries is the most infectious disease of the oral cavity and many fall prey to this. Caries is a result of nutritional deficiencies as well as a result of microorganisms such as bacteria, general hygiene and family history.

The tooth surface is covered with bacterial coating known as plaque. Dental caries results when acid producing bacteria dominate in this coating. When you eat food, there are fermentable carbohydrates in the food that can be metabolized by these bacteria and converted to lactic acid. The already acidic plaque gets more acidic, causing dental caries, leading to loss of tooth and further bacterial invasion.

Dietary considerations

Good dietary intake is the key to healthy teeth. However, prevention of caries is also dependant on the body's needs being met with certain minerals such as fluoride in adequate amounts. A balanced diet is unable to provide fluoride, so you have to take care that the water levels of fluoride are adequate. Or else go in for toothpastes and mouth rinses that have extra fluoride in them.

Caries is caused by your food intake: what you eat, how much you eat, how much time you devote to eating and the fermentable carbohydrate in your diet. Carbohydrates are classified as cariogenic foods, i.e. foods that dissolve slowly and remain in the mouth for a longer time, whereas fats and proteins are noncariogenic. Since all carbohydrates are broken down into sugars, they can result in caries due to bacterial action.

Foods such as cheese are considered as caries protective foods since they internally provide protection due to its components and also increase the flow of saliva, which prevents the formation of plaques. This stands true for all dairy products. In fact milk is a rich source of calcium, which is a necessary mineral for healthy teeth. High fat and protein foods such as meats and nuts are also protective since fat results in less stickiness of food in the mouth and hence less fermentation by bacteria.

Tips for healthy teeth

Avoid frequent snacking since snacks are basically carbohydrate based and hence increase the risk for caries. Thus carbohydrate foods should be taken in combination with fat and protein, as it reduces its exposure with teeth and hence less decay.

Avoid sticky foods such as chocolate and toffees since they remain in the mouth for a longer time and hence are available to the bacteria.

Restrict the intake of soft drinks. Being acidic in nature, they have the capacity to destroy the tooth enamel.

Frequent brushing of teeth with fluoridated toothpaste can help to reduce the contact of fermentable sugar with teeth.

Thus proper hygiene and good dietary habits can help in fighting the life long problem of tooth decay.

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