Celebrating National Nutrition Month
SUMMARY: Diet plays a key role in your oral health. Discover the best ways to protect your pearly whites - and your waistline - during National Nutrition Month and beyond.
Posted: March 19, 2014
March is National Nutrition Month. Sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the campaign focuses on the importance of making smart food choices and developing good meal habits. This is a good a time as any to be reminded that nutrition is an integral part of oral health. After all, what you eat impacts not only your waistline, but your mouth as well.
These days everyone wants a gorgeous set of pearly whites, but some of us don't take as good of care of teeth as our dentist would like. Remember, your adult teeth have to last your entire life, so start treating them right! Cavities, gum disease and halitosis are some of the problems that may originate from your diet.
The two-way street
Consumer research confirmed that taste tops nutrition as the main reason why people purchase one food over another. Makes sense, right? The foods people enjoy are likely the ones they eat most. This year, though, the ANM is encouraging people to blend taste and nutrition to create healthy meals.
Oral health and nutrition are a two-way street. Nutrition and diet play a role in the health of your mouth, affecting the progression of oral diseases. At the same time, infectious diseases, such as gingivitis (early stage gum disease), periodontitis (advanced stage gum disease) and cavities impact an individual's ability to chew and swallow foods.
A revised food pyramid
The U.S. Department of Agriculture created the food pyramid nearly two decades ago. Since then, the icon has been updated slightly to provide better meal options backed by recent scientific evidence. To step, or rather eat, in the right direction, several of the recommendations of the current version include consuming vegetables and fruit, beans, whole grains and nuts. Americans should also eat more fish thanks to its ability to help maintain a healthy heart. Cut back on saturated and especially trans fats by eating leaner forms of protein like fish and nuts.
Eating tips for healthy body, healthy teeth
- Keep an eye out for sugar: Just like your mother told you, chowing down on too many sweets leads to cavities. But how does this happen? Your mouth contains thousands of bacteria, some protective and others harmful. The bad bacteria, namely Streptococcus mutans, feeds on sugar, releasing acid that wears away teeth. Sugary foods, thus, turn your mouth into a breeding ground for these cavity-causing agents. Plus, when plaque builds in nooks between teeth and along your gum line, the decaying food often causes bad breath. Train your taste buds to enjoy healthy cuisine such as a fruits and vegetables, lean protein and whole grains.
- Drink water, not soda: Sipping on sugary beverages like energy drinks and soda spell disaster for your teeth. Even seemingly innocent fruit juices can harm your mouth, as they drench teeth in sugars, allowing acid to constantly attack your dental enamel. Your best bet is drink fluoridated water. The Mayo Clinic recommends drinking at least 32 ounces of water, or 4 cups, daily. However, if you do decide to drink soda, do so during meals, since this is when saliva has the greatest chance of rinsing sugars down.
- Get your daily dose of vitamins: Calcium and vitamin D are two of the most beneficial vitamins and minerals for your mouth. First, calcium builds strong bones and teeth, which helps fortify enamel. Eating calcium-rich foods like cheese, leafy greens and almonds are excellent for teeth. Vitamin D, meanwhile, enables your body to absorb the calcium. Fish, milk fortified with vitamin D as well as cod liver oil are good sources of this healthy vitamin.
- Keeping bad breath at bay: There are a number of food culprits for bad breath. When your lunch lingers in your mouth, for example, the decaying particles cause a rotten smell. Additionally, onions and garlic, though healthy, are not food you'd want to eat before a date - each leaves an awful stench. Alcohol dries out the mouth too, causing halitosis.