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Diet & Oral Health

by Adriana Jaramillo DDS & Carlos A Jaramillo IV

It probably comes as no surprise that eating habits affect your oral and systemic health. Understanding how it impacts your health will help you be more proactive. Food is the body’s primary source of energy. What you eat and how often is a key factor in your health.

Sugar Content: The bacteria in your mouth converts the sugar you eat into acid. This acid results in demineralization of tooth enamel and can eventually result in decay. Nearly all foods - even milk and vegetables - have sugars. A healthy diet will control the intake of sugars and the production of acid. Some foods more than others - such as soda, sports drinks, processed candies, and juice drinks with little natural juice and high fructose contents - have high sugar and acid contents with little nutritive value.

Nutritive Content: A healthy diet promotes a healthy body. The body needs a variety of nutrients, vitamins and minerals in order to operate well. Poor nutrition in developing children and young adults will adversely affect bone and tooth development, while increasing the risk of osteoporosis in adults. Furthermore, good nutrition is necessary for a strong immune system which aids in the fight against oral bacteria. But the effects of nutrition are not limited to your health! You cannot look, feel, and be healthy with out eating healthy.

See article on Vegetarian Diets

Frequency: Eating between meals prolongs the presence of acids in your mouth. A healthy diet is not just about what you eat, but when you eat. Avoiding eating between meals helps control bacteria and the corresponding negative consequences including the development of bad breath, plaque and tooth decay. For infants, parents should avoid nursing their child to sleep.

Eating Disorders: Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by binge eating followed by purging. Repeated vomiting can severely erode tooth enamel and damage the tissue in your mouth and throat, as well as your salivary glands. Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by intense fear of weight gain, the desire to be thin, and the inability to maintain a normal weight for height and age. Both eating disorders deprive the body of important nutrition.

Be proactive: Promoting a diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables and protein will give your body the nutrients it needs. Drinking plenty of water is essential to staying hydrated, maintaing good levels of saliva production, and obtaining the recommended amounts of fluoride. Practicing good oral hygiene, including brushing after meals and snacks, will help control the presence of sugars and reduce the build up of plaque and acid. Even a good rinse with water when you are on the run will help.

Suggestions on overall diet must be made according to the individual dietary needs based such factors as age and level of physical activity. You can obtain information on a healthy diet from your physician and from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


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