Good nutrition plays a large role in your dental health. Brushing and flossing help keep your teeth and gums healthy and strong. However, a balanced diet will help to boost your body’s immune system, leaving you less vulnerable to oral inflammation, periodontal disease and dental decay.
Nutrition & Healthy Gums
Researchers have found strong evidence that macro and micronutrients control inflammatory processes.1 What you eat provides more than fuel for energy production; it can actually control gene and protein expression at the molecular level.
High spikes in blood sugar and saturated fats after eating, can cause chronic inflammation. Refined simple carbohydrates and foods high in saturated fats are absorbed into the bloodstream quickly. In fact, the system our bodies use for energy production called the “Krebs cycle and electron transport chain” can be quickly overwhelmed. After producing enough energy for our needs the excess fuel is turned into destructive free radicals. Excess sugar from over-nutrition also puts stress on our ability to produce and use insulin effectively. Excess carbohydrate levels also decrease our ability to breakdown fat and increases the formation of free fatty acids by the liver. Eating saturated fats “low density lipoproteins” (LDL’s) increases this inflammatory effect.
Nutrition can have a positive anti-Inflammatory effect as well. Eating complex carbohydrates or foods that break down slowly reduces the risk of spikes in blood sugar and decreases production of free radicals. Foods high in antioxidants also help reverse oxidative stress and reduce inflammation by binding with the free radicals floating around in our bodies.
Researchers have demonstrated that low levels of antioxidants and high free radicals, in Periodontal pockets, are associated with increased periodontal “Gum” inflammation2. Periodontal disease like other chronic inflammatory diseases share several common features including: oxidative stress (free radicals), acute phase proteins (CRP), matrix metalloproteases (MMPs), Prostaglandin lipid mediators, and Adipokines (TNF).
We do not have data from intervention studies yet, but we do know that eating well is better than eating poorly. For your Periodontal and Overall health, Dr. Wolf recommends eating foods naturally rich in antioxidants and Omega 3 polyunsaturated fats, such as fruits, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, and fish oils.
- Beans: Green
- Red Grapes
- Bread: whole grain
- Pasta: whole grain
- Rice: brown
Refined Carbohydrates (Bad)
- Bread: white
- Cakes: white flour
- Carbonated beverages with sugars
- Corn syrup
- Fruit juices and drinks with added sugar
- Pasta: white
- Ices: sherbet
Nutrition & Healthy Teeth
How often and what you eat have been found to affect your teeth. Eating starchy foods such as crackers, bread, cookies and candy causes the bacteria in your mouth to feed on it. They then produce acids, which attack your teeth for up to 20 minutes or more. Foods that stick to your teeth or dissolve slowly give these acids more time to work on destroying tooth enamel. Foods such as nuts, cheese, onions, and some teas and products containing a sweetner called “xylitol” have been shown to slow growth of decay causing bacteria in the mouth.
Sticky/Slow to Dissolve Foods:
- Granola bars
- Chewy fruit snacks
- Dried fruit
- Hard candy
Sticky and starchy foods create less acid when eaten as part of a meal. Saliva production increases at mealtime, rinsing away food particles, and neutralizing harmful acids. Saliva production is the lowest while you are sleeping. Dr. Wolf recommends avoiding the above foods, along with effective personal oral hygiene before bed.
1O’keefe J, Bell D. postprandial hyperglycemia/hyperlipidemia is a cardiovascular risk factor. Am J Cardiol 2007:100(5):899-904
2Chapple L, Brock GR, Milward MR, Ling N, Mattews JB. Compromised GCF total antioxidant capacity in periodontitis:cause or effect? J Clin Periodontal 2007;42(2)103:110
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