You’ve probably heard the phrase you are what you eat. This adage is commonly repeated by physicians, diet books, and mothers to their children, but it was originally used in 1923 by Victor Lindlahr. He was a nutritionist, and one of the first people who believed in a direct link between the foods we consume and our health. While his research was a bit spotty, a 1993 study revealed that diet was the 2nd leading cause of death in the US linked to 300,000 deaths compared to the 400,000 deaths that were tobacco related. Suffice it to say, Lindlahr, your doctor, diet books, and mother may have been right when they said you are what you eat. It will likely come as no surprise that dentists agree. Nutrition significantly impacts oral health. Maybe even more than it does whole body health since the foods and beverages we consume react directly with bacteria in the mouth, and high sugar or carbohydrate diets create an acidic biofilm that causes tooth decay. When it comes to protecting oral and overall health, maintaining a well-balanced diet in addition to thorough at-home hygiene and regular dental checkups is essential.
Foods that Protect Oral Health
- Fiber – fiber-rich foods, especially crisp fruits and vegetables help increase saliva flow that neutralizes acidity of bacteria and plaque.
- Calcium – foods that have high levels of calcium, phosphates, and vitamin D help deliver nutrients to fortify tooth enamel. Additionally, calcium in milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products actually mixes with plaque. This sticky, calcium-fortified solution serves as a buffer against acids.
- Malic acid – a “good” acid found in fruits and vegetables that not only helps preserve oral health, but is known to whiten teeth as well.
- Green tea – and other types of tea contain antimicrobial compounds that suppress bacteria reducing decay, inflammation, and gum disease.
- Wine – the tannins in wine (especially red wine) have antimicrobial affects similar to those in green tea. However, unlike green tea, red wine will stain teeth.
Things to Keep in Mind
While these foods may be great for smiles, it’s essential to eat a healthy, well balanced diet. Consuming only these foods and beverages is not likely to provide adequate nutrition, and may even be detrimental to overall health. Consult a physician or dietician if you have questions about your diet.
Find out More from Your Family Dentist Mt Holly
If you’re interested in finding out more about how foods affect oral health or you’re ready to schedule an appointment, contact your dedicated Mt. Holly Family Dentistry team.