It really SHOULDN’T be a secret, and we wish more patients knew; your diet majorly influence whether you do – or don’t – get cavities. Even a child can tell you (correctly) that sugary candy is bad for your teeth; but the link between cavities and what we consume is quite a bit more detailed than this basic principle. This article is intended to explore the relationship between food and your smile and, hopefully, to help you understand that your diet is actually more important than your toothbrush.
You Are What You Eat
While thankfully, you’re not a pizza; on a molecular level, the old adage “you are what you eat” is quite true. The very building blocks of human teeth are minerals, such as calcium phosphate. And, of course, your body has to get those minerals from somewhere, and it does – from your food. When you think of your teeth, you probably imagine that they have a hard surface; they certainly tend to feel smooth to your tongue.
In actuality, your teeth are more structurally similar to latticework or a sponge than a completely solid object; they are actually able to soak up material, such as minerals. As long as you keep contributing the proper minerals to your diet and eating healthful foods, the structure of your teeth will stay strong. But, if your teeth are losing minerals more quickly than they are absorbing minerals to replenish your teeth, you end up with a decaying smile. To put it more simply, mineral loss = tooth loss.
If you’re like most people, you probably recognize the need to brush and floss on a regular basis; cleaning your teeth is a wonderful and necessary habit! Brushing and flossing at least twice a day, preferably after meals, helps to remove plaque from the surface of the teeth. However, brushing and flossing does nothing to build your teeth up and prevent them from wasting away. Remember, your teeth need to be absorbing minerals more quickly than they are losing those minerals to keep decay at bay.
Eating foods that promote remineralization nourish teeth with vitamins and minerals from the inside out, keeping them strong, healthy and resistant to cavities.
Here’s a look at some excellent choices to promote remineralization:
- Grass-fed cheese and butter
- Wild-caught fish
- Dark, leafy greens
- Discouraging Demineralization
While the right foods help you to remineralize your teeth, the wrong foods do just the opposite; they speed up the demineralization process of the tooth enamel. Like many Western diseases, tooth decay has its roots in poor diet. Filling up on processed foods means that you aren’t filling up on important minerals like phosphorus and calcium and important vitamins like A, D, and K. In addition, junk foods tends to contain large amounts of sugar, which provides a feast for bacteria. The combination of sparse nutrients and high sugar present in processed foods hits your mouth like a double-whammy.
Here are some foods which work AGAINST remineralization:
- Sugary yogurts
- Sports drinks
As human beings with limited willpower and virtually limitless options when it comes to processed food, we simply don’t make smart choices for every meal, every day. Generally speaking, you should aim for a healthful diet, both for the sake of your teeth and the rest of your body. However, you’ll end up eating a slice of cake at your nephew’s birthday party or having a soda with lunch – it happens. Remember that it most important to focus on what your diet looks like overall, on a day-to-day basis.
Cramming in a bunch of mineral-rich foods in one sitting won’t do nearly as much good as eating those same foods on a daily basis. Likewise, having one soda won’t do nearly as much damage to your teeth as sipping on sodas throughout the course of the day, which would ensure that your teeth NEVER got a chance to remineralize.
So, think smart, and happy (nutrient-rich) snacking from those of us at Bozart Family Dentistry!