Today it’s no secret that food and what you consume affects your health. With a great deal of emphasis placed on eating a well-balanced diet while drastically reducing, or even cutting out sugar completely, there are endless reasons why the healthy eating vigilantes stress the importance of being mindful of food and its ingredients.
Generally speaking, a person’s poor diet is usually related to weight gain and the chronic diseases that go with it, but did you know that your eating habits can also seriously affect your oral health?
Well, it’s true! In fact, out of all the areas of your body, it’s usually your teeth and gums to first indicate that something’s amiss with your nutrition.
The Fast Food Nation
Let’s face it, many people like fast food, some more than others. From the taste to the convenience of fast food, there are a number of reasons why some choose to consume it.
Fast food is prevalent everywhere, no matter which country you’re in, however, it is true that the USA is one of the largest consumers. Which is no surprise really, since the industry’s annual revenue is around the $110bn mark (1).
Made up of super sugary snacks, the typical American diet does the body no favors, especially when it comes to your teeth and gums. Such snacks, which are typically soft, sweet and incredibly sticky – stick to teeth, which immediately places you in a higher-risk zone when it comes to cavities thanks to the acid buildup.
What’s more, such fast food diets lack some basic nutrients that are vital for oral health and hygiene, and therefore too much of the ‘good stuff’ makes you more susceptible to nutrient deficiencies that negatively affect your teeth and gums.
Vitamins & Nutrients That Are Vital For Healthy Teeth
To have good oral hygiene and healthy gums and teeth, it’s important that you include the following vitamins and nutrients into your everyday life.
#1. Vitamin C
From a young age it’s drilled into us that vitamin C is necessary for our health. From fighting common colds to building stronger immune systems, vitamin C is a key player in our general wellbeing – but did you know that it’s also great for your dental health? Vitamin C strengthens gums and soft tissues in the mouth, therefore protecting against common gum conditions such as gingivitis and gum disease (2).
Boost your vitamin C intake naturally by consuming citrus fruits, such as oranges and mandarins. Increasing your leafy greens is also a good idea.
#2. Vitamin D
We all know that calcium is vital for bone and teeth health, but for it to be effective, vitamin D is essential as it assists the body in absorbing the mineral. As well as helping your body get all the calcium you consume, it is also known to improve bone mineral density. Consuming both calcium and vitamin D has also been found to reduce tooth loss amongst the elderly (3).
Get your vitamin D fix by consuming more fatty fish; tuna and mackerel are perfect examples. There are also a number of products that have been fortified with vitamin D, so next time you’re at the grocery store look out for fortified orange juice, cereal, and milk.
#3. Vitamin B3
Vitamin B3 is mostly known for helping the body convert its food into energy while also helping the nervous system function as it should. Vitamin B3 is great for your general health, but when you don’t consume enough, it can also negatively affect your dental health, which will often result in mouth sores and bad breath (4).
Vitamin B3 is found naturally in many foods, but the everyday foods that contain the most are chicken and fish, which also come with plenty of other health benefits for the body, including providing your body with healthy amounts of protein.
#4. Vitamin B12/B2
If you’ve ever suffered from, or have known someone to suffer from canker sores, you know that these can be very painful. Not only do these open mouth sores hurt, they also put you at a higher risk of infection. Thankfully, there’s a way of reducing your risk of developing canker sores, and that’s through consuming more vitamin B12/B2 (5).
Increasing your vitamin B12 intake is easy. Consuming foods such as almonds, pasta, and even bagels can help. To increase vitamin B2 naturally, try adding more chicken, red meat, pork, liver, and dairy products to your diet.
It’s no surprise that calcium plays a key role when it comes to your oral health. Calcium helps in building bones, and strengthening your nails, hair, and teeth. More specifically, this mineral hardens the enamel of your teeth while making the jawbone stronger (6).
Milk is the superstar for calcium, but you can also get it from foods such as yogurt, cheese, salmon, and broccoli.
Not consuming enough iron can lead to many problems in the body. An iron deficiency can often result in painful mouth sores and inflammation of the tongue. Iron’s number one role in the body is to transport oxygen around the body, so when your body doesn’t get enough, it causes a build up of bacteria, making your mouth more susceptible to infections (7).
Meat is the best source of iron, especially red meat and liver, which is perfect if you’re a meat lover. Spinach, nuts, and seeds are also good sources of iron.
Which Foods to Avoid or Limit
Obviously, there is good food and bad food for all aspects of your health. However, if you want to pay special attention to your oral health and hygiene, the following foods should be avoided, or at least kept to a minimum.
#1. Chewy Foods
If ever there was a ‘nightmare’ food for your teeth, it’d have to be chewy food. Chewy food, such as dried fruit, sticks to your teeth and are more difficult to remove.
If you do consume these foods, it’d be beneficial to rinse your mouth out immediately after eating them.
#2. Soft Drinks
Soft drinks are packed with sugar. Not only are they bad for your teeth, they can also cause a number of other health-related problems. The sugar contributes to plaque buildup while attacking the enamel, which then can lead to cavities over time.
Soda brings no benefits, so where possible, it’s advisable to try and cut these drinks out completely and stick to water.
#3. Candy and Gum
Gum and candy, especially hard candy, are the worst when it comes to your oral health. Candies and gum are almost pure sugar, and therefore can be extremely harmful to your teeth, increasing your risk of cavities. What’s more, eating hard candies can also result in broken and chipped teeth.
If you find you can’t live without gum, try chewing sugarless gum instead that carries the ADA Seal.
Believe it or not, carbs, especially bread, can negatively affect your dental health. Chewing carbs results in the saliva breaking down the starches into sugar, which then ends up getting lodged between the crevices of your teeth. These sugars eventually build up, increasing the risk of cavities.
Since carbs come with a host of other negative effects, it’s best to try and either eliminate them or drastically reduce them. Adopting a ketogenic diet can help. The keto diet, which is a way of eating that advocates a very low-carb high-fat diet, could be beneficial.
Not only will you reduce the risk of cavities from starchy carbs, you’ll also benefit from foods that are naturally high in good fats that can also provide you with excellent nutrients and vitamins for your teeth, such as calcium and vitamins B3 and B12.
#5. Fruit and Fruit Juices
Citrus fruit is a bit of a catch-22. Consuming the right amount can be beneficial, as it gives you a healthy dose of vitamin C, however, it’s packed with fructose and a number of acids that cause enamel erosion. And when you begin to experience enamel erosion, you’re instantly increasing the risk of suffering from tooth decay later on down the line.
Instead of consuming glass after glass of fruit juice from the carton or overdoing it with the fruit, try squeezing a little bit of the fruit into water, and enjoy a refreshing drink that way.
Looking after your teeth is imperative, because oral health problems, if left untreated, can turn into bigger health problems. Taking control of your diet and incorporating more natural foods packed with the above mentioned vitamins and nutrients in conjunction with a healthy ketogenic diet will not only improve your dental health, it will also help you lose weight, improve your general health and wellness, and in some cases, reduce the effects of chronic disease; what’s not to love about it?
About the author
Alex Reed is editor in chief of Bodyketosis, an author, low-carb enthusiast and a recovering chubby guy who reclaimed his health using the ketogenic lifestyle. The need for the keto life began after his aunt and cousin were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and he was next in line. Through personal experience and extensive scientific research, Alex offers insightful tips for everything keto.