We have all heard the saying “You are what you eat.” What you eat can make a difference in the way that you feel and perform. Try to choose foods that will help your body stay strong and healthy. Your choice of foods and your eating patterns also may affect your dental health.

How does your diet affect your dental health?

If your diet is low in certain nutrients, it may be harder for the tissues of your mouth to resist infection. This may be a contributing factor to periodontal (gum) disease, the main cause of tooth loss in adults. Although poor nutrition does not actually cause periodontal disease, many researchers believe that the disease progresses faster and is more severe in patients whose diet does not supply the necessary nutrients.

To be sure that you are getting enough nutrients for good general and oral health, you should chose foods from the four basic food groups: bread and cereals, milk and dairy products, fruits and vegetables and meat, fish and eggs. When you do snack, avoid soft, sweet, sticky foods such as cakes, candy and dried fruits that cling to your teeth and promote tooth decay. Instead, choose dentally healthy foods such as nuts, raw vegetables, plain yogurt, cheese, popcorn and sugarless gum or candy. To have a diet that promotes dental health, you must develop sensible eating habits.

Certain foods are healthy for the body but unhealthy for the teeth. For example, raisins, prunes and other dried fruits provide healthy nutrients that the body needs. The sticky nature of these foods makes them cavity causing foods! Choose to eat these snacks at a time when you are able to brush and floss your teeth immediately after eating them. Cheddar cheese is a wise dental snack as it neutralizes the acidity in your mouth and reduces the chances of cavities.

How can I be sure that I am getting enough fluoride?

If you and your family have a balanced diet, you will get all the nutrients you need for good dental health, with one possible exception – fluoride. Fluoride is vital for decay resistant, strong teeth. Fluoride may occur naturally in well water and you would have to have this water tested to determine the fluoride content of it. Many people in the Turks and Caicos Islands drink “city” water, bottled water or rain water. With the exception of a very few of the bottled waters available, fluoride is not in the drinking water. If there is not enough fluoride in your community water supply, ask you dentist how you can get the fluoride you need. Fluoride supplements (taken in the form of vitamins, drops or fluoridated water) help to form strong enamel (the outer surfaces of the tooth) and are most beneficial while the crowns of the teeth are forming (ages 3 – 12).

Fluoride is also available in most toothpaste. Be sure that you supervise your children while brushing their teeth to ensure that they do not swallow toothpaste. Fluoride mouth rinses are also available and have been proven to be effective in helping prevent dental decay. They do not contribute to your dietary fluoride. Topical fluoride gel can be applied at your dental clinic. Not only does the fluoride reduce your chances of cavities, it also reverses and remineralizes early cavities as well as reducing root sensitivity. Check with your dental team to see if they recommend a fluoride supplement – either topical (applied to teeth) or systemic (internal).

Together, a balanced diet, daily use of fluoride, brushing and flossing and sensible eating habits will reduce the risk of or even prevent dental disease.