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The Effects of Diet and Nutrition on Oral Health

A healthy mouth contributes to good overall health and what we eat affects our oral health. Nutrition influences the development of teeth and the risk of oral cancer and other infectious diseases. Not only do these negative conditions affect our self-esteem, they are expensive to treat and can shorten our lifetimes. Before planning the next meal, consider how it will impact dental health.

Tooth Development and Oral Health
At a young age, humans begin developing temporary teeth that are replaced by permanent teeth. Nutrition affects the development of these teeth and malnutrition can increase risk of periodontal and infectious oral diseases. Nutrition plays a major role in the development of cavities and erosion of tooth enamel. Dietary acids from soft drinks and sugary juices are associated with dental erosion, a condition that is becoming more common. Studies support an association between dental caries, commonly called cavities, and the amount and frequency of free sugar ingestion.

Fresh fruit and starch-based staple foods, on the other hand, are associated with low levels of cavities. Fluoride obtained through treated water, toothpaste, and preventative dental treatments reduces the risk of cavities. A healthy diet consisting of fresh vegetables and fruits that contain vitamins A, C, and E can also help prevent oral cancer.

Oral Health Extends Beyond Cavities and Cancer

The impact of diet and nutrition extends beyond tooth development, cavities, and cancer of the mouth. What we eat also affects the strength of bones in the mouth and the integrity of oral and gingival tissue. These structures form the foundation of the mouth, ensuring that teeth have healthy and strong anchors. Our diets even affect teeth themselves, as vitamin C is required for collagen and vitamins A and D are necessary for phosphorus, two substances that mineralize the protein matrix of teeth.

A sticky mixture of protein, polysaccharides, and microorganisms results in the formation of plaque on teeth. When bacteria metabolize certain carbohydrates, they produce acid. If oral pH decreases to a specific level during this process, tooth demineralization begins, resulting in tooth decay. Saliva helps to neutralize acid and promotes remineralization but we can help by eating healthy foods.
By following a healthy diet, drinking beverages made with fluoridated water, and brushing teeth with fluoridated toothpaste after every meal, we improve our dental health. Vegetables, eggs, fish, poultry, meat, and foods containing protein are recommended. Regular dental checkups and fluoride treatments help maintain a healthy mouth.

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