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DENTAL PROBLEMS

FOODS THAT HARM

  • Starchy snacks and sugary foods, such as sweetened cereals and cookies
  • Acidic drinks sipped over prolonged periods of time, such as wine or unsweetened fruit juice

    FOODS THAT HEAL

  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Aged cheeses
  • Fortified soy beverages
  • Eggs
  • Legumes
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Oranges
  • Dark leafy green vegetables, especially spinach
  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Yogurt
  • Rice

    FOODS TO LIMIT

  • Dried fruit and other sticky foods Salty foods

    WHO’S AFFECTED

  • Those with chronic diseases, such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS
  • Those with eating disorders
  • Those with poor dental hygiene
    In addition to brushing and flossing, a healthful diet, with natural or added fluoride, protects teeth from decay and keeps the gums healthy
    Tooth decay (cavities and dental caries) and gum disease are caused by colonies of bacteria that coat the teeth with a sticky film called plaque
    If plaque is not brushed away, these bacteria break down the sugars and starches in foods to produce acids that wear away the tooth enamel
    The plaque also hardens into tartar, which can lead to gum inflammation, or gingivitis
    A well-balanced diet provides the minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients essential for healthy teeth and gums
    Fluoride, found in foods, water, and treated water supplies, has been determined safe and effective in preventing cavities, reducing rates by 40 to 60%
    Another common dental problem is canker sores, which appear as painful, white or yellowish raised spots
    Sores are scattered through the mouth or in large clusters
    Often, canker sores heal after two weeks, but larger ulcers may last months and be accompanied by fatigue, fever, and swollen lymph nodes
    The cause of canker sores is unknown, but doctors believe they’re related to stress or trauma

    Nutrition Connection

    Eating the right foods plays a big part in having healthy teeth and gums
    Follow these guidelines: Eat foods rich in calcium
    Calcium supports healthy teeth and gums
    Low-fat dairy products, fortified soy and rice beverages, canned salmon or sardines (with bones), almonds, and dark green leafy vegetables are excellent sources of calcium
    Eat foods rich in vitamin D
    Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium
    Find it in milk, fortified soy and rice beverages, and fatty fish such as salmon
    Eat nutrient-dense foods
    Nutrients such as phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin C, and beta-carotene are also essential to dental health
    Phosphorus, found in meat, fish, dairy products and eggs, and magnesium, found in whole grains, spinach, and legumes, are necessary for the formation of tooth enamel
    Vitamin A helps build strong bones and teeth
    Good sources of beta-carotene, which the body turns into vitamin A, include orange-colored fruits and vegetables and dark green leafy vegetables
    Vitamin C, found in cruciferous vegetables and citrus fruits, prevents bleeding gums

    QUICK TIP:

    Look for gum with xylitol Within 5 minutes after finishing a meal, chew gum for at least 5 minutes
    Gum sweetened with xylitol helps to counter harmful bacteria in your mouth, which promote cavities
    End your meals with the right foods
    When consumed at the end of a meal, aged cheeses help prevent cavities
    In addition to providing essential nutrients, hard fibrous fruits and vegetables, such as apples, carrots and celery also stimulate Fresh fruit such as apples stimulate saliva flow, which decreases mouth acidity and washes away food particles
    They also reduce buildup of cavity-causing bacteria
    Avoid sticky items such as dried fruit
    Avoid starchy and sugary foods
    Sugary foods may seem obviously linked to cavities, but starchy foods, such as sweetened cereals or cakes, also make teeth prone to decay
    The starches mix with amylase, an enzyme in saliva, to create an acid bath that erodes enamel
    Try a diet of bland, soft food
    If painful canker sores interfere with eating, try sipping liquid or pureed foods through a straw
    Foods that cause the least pain include yogurt, custard, rice, and poached chicken
    Avoid salty and acidic food
    Check to see if your water supply is fluoridated
    Not all municipalities fluoridate their water supply, so contact your municipal office
    Cavities can be prevented by giving children fluoride in the first few years of life
    Fluoride is supplied through fluoridated water, beverages made with fluoridated water, tea, and some fish, as well as many brands of toothpaste and some mouthwash
    Fluoride supplements are available for children who don’t have access to fluoridated drinking water, but note that excess fluoride consumption can cause mottling of the teeth

    KEEP YOUR KIDS TEETH HEALTHY

    Children are particularly vulnerable to tooth decay because their teeth are still forming enamel and haven’t finished hardening
    Parents should:
  • Provide a good diet throughout childhood
  • Brush children’s teeth until they’re mature enough to do a thorough job by themselves (usually by 6 or 7 years old)
  • Supervise twice-daily brushing and flossing thereafter
  • Never put babies or toddlers to bed accompanied by a bottle of milk (which contains the natural sugar lactose), juice, or other sweet drink
  • Never dip pacifiers in honey or syrup
  • Eat sensibly during pregnancy to make sure that the child’s teeth get off to a good start; particularly important is calcium, which helps the baby to form strong teeth and bones, and vitamin D, which the body needs to absorb calcium

    Beyond the Diet

    Because a chronically dry mouth also contributes to decay, it’s helpful to incorporate the following strategies to stimulate saliva and take good care of your teeth and gums: Chew gum
    Sugarless gum stimulates the flow of saliva, which decreases acid and flushes out food particles
    Rinse and brush after eating
    Rinsing your mouth and brushing your teeth after eating are important strategies to prevent cavities
    Always brush your teeth before going to bed
    Saliva flow slows during sleep; going to bed without brushing the teeth is especially harmful
    Check your medications
    Certain drugs cut down saliva flow, such as clonidine, which is used to treat high blood pressure and ADHD in kids, and heart medications atropine and propranolol
    Take care of your gums
    Left untreated, gum diseases such as gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, an advanced infection that can cause teeth to loosen and fall out
    People on medications such as chemotherapy drugs or steroids are particularly at risk for gum disease, as well as those who have diabetes, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS
    Furthermore, gum disease has also been linked to endocarditis, a condition where bacteria enters the bloodstream
    See a dentist every 6 months
    Regular checkups keep teeth and gums healthy