Does food actually affect the health of your teeth? If it does, how do we take care of those pearly whites? Did you know that oral health problems are the second most expensive disease group to treat each year Australia wide?
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The science behind good oral health
When you eat, the normal healthy bacteria that live in your mouth get to eat too. They prefer to eat carbohydrates, especially cooked starches and simple sugars. As the bacteria eat they make acid in a process called ‘fermentation’. That acid sits around and attacks the teeth causing decay called ‘dental caries’. Your body is able to fight against acid attacks naturally through the nutrients in your saliva and teeth-strengthening processes called ‘remineralisation’.
There are two basic ways to support your teeth to stay healthy
The first is giving your body the right nutrition for inside your teeth. Your teeth are made up of a structure of minerals (such as calcium and phosphorus). Teeth are constantly building up that structure and need plenty of minerals to stay strong and healthy.
The second way is creating a healthy environment for your teeth. Important nutrients like fluoride help strengthen the protective coating around your teeth (called enamel). By making certain food choices you can also help your mouth to control the level of acidity around your teeth.
7 food choices you can make to keep your teeth healthy inside and out - foods for healthy teeth
1. Eat calcium rich foods.
Your bones and teeth are like a storage centre for calcium and other minerals. If the rest of your body needs some calcium it is taken out of the bones and teeth. This is a normal process, but, it means that you need to have enough calcium every day to replace what is lost.
The foods highest in calcium are dairy foods like milk, cheese and yoghurt. However, there are lots of other foods that contain calcium like tofu, almonds with the skin on, fish with bones (e.g. sardines), non-dairy milks with calcium added, some other types of nuts and leafy green vegetables.
There is some scientific evidence that ending a meal with healthy dairy foods can promote saliva production and slow the progression of dental carries (decay).
To learn more about how many serves of dairy foods you need eat daily check out the Eat For Health recommendations here; or make an appointment with a dietitian at Inspiro by calling 9028 0153
2. Reduce how often you are having sugary treats
This includes foods like lollies, chocolate, cakes and biscuits; as well as sweetened beverages like soft drink, cordials and juices. These foods stay around the teeth for longer and are harder to wash away. This keep the acidity level in your mouth higher for longer, leaving your teeth at risk of decay for a longer period on time.
Having these foods less often throughout the day will allow your mouth more time to neutralise that acid and for your teeth to be strengthened between those sugary acid attacks. This can be done by having your treats with meals instead of between meals and having treats less often throughout the week.
3. Fresh fruits and vegetables
Fresh fruit and vegetables encourage oral health in a few ways.
- They are a good source of vitamin C which promotes a healthy mouth and teeth.
- They also encourage saliva production. Saliva contains important nutrients which strengthen teeth.
- Fruits and vegetables have a higher fibre intake which can slow dental disease progression.
14 Inspiro dietitian approved plant based foods that are easy to make and great to take to work, click here.
4. Give your teeth the fluoride they need
Fluoride helps to make enamel more resistant to acid attacks, and promotes the repair of tooth enamel. Tap water is a major source of fluoride for most of the Australian population. Most brands of toothpaste also contain fluoride.
But remember, children don't need too much toothpaste, as too much can lead to excess consumption of fluoride.
5. Limit sticky foods
There are lots of other sticky sugary food to think about other than lollies and sweetened drinks. For example, muesli bars, jam, peanut butter and dried fruit. These can all provide important nutrition, but when we think about dental health, they can be just as difficult to clear from the mouth as the treats discussed in tip 2.
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6. Avoid eating too often
The amount of carbohydrates eaten is not as important as how often it is eaten. Research shows that it takes 30-60 minutes after eating to return a neutral pH (acid level) to the mouth and restore minerals to tooth enamel lost in acid attacks.
7. Chew sugar free gum
Xylitol is a common ingredient in sugar-free gum and has antibacterial action to help keep your mouth clean. Additionally sugar-free gum helps promote saliva production which helps strengthen enamel and remove food particles from around the teeth.
How and for how should you be brushing your teeth?
All of these tips about healthy eating are secondary to brushing your teeth. All teeth need to be brushed morning and night along the gum line for 2 minutes with age appropriate fluoride toothpaste. Children 18 months to 6 years should use toothpaste with a low level of fluoride unless otherwise advised. Once the child is six years old standard fluoride toothpaste can be used.
At the end of brushing the toothpaste should be spat out but not rinsed off.
Here are 10 ways to brush children's teeth properly (very useful if you have kids who aren't very cooperative when it comes to teeth brushing time.
An oral health professional can advise on the need for cleaning and flossing, frequency for dental visits and use of fluoride products for people living in areas where tap water doesn’t have added fluoride.
See 10 EASY tips to brush your child's teeth here.
Flossing is extremely important but not everyone does it. Learn the easiest and most effective way to floss here.
Inspiro is dedicated to providing great dental care for children. Our dental outreach team visits primary schools and kinders to do basic dental check-ups and teach children how to take care of their teeth. Inspiro offers a free dental service for children up to 12 years old, and children with Child Dental Benefits Scheme are bulk billed with no out-of-pocket fees.
If you or your kids haven’t seen a dentist recently, you can book a dental appointment today by calling 9028 0153. Learn more about our dental services by clicking here.
You can learn more about good nutrition for dental health by speaking with a qualified dietitian at Inspiro. Call 9028 0153 to make your appointment today. Learn more about our nutrition services by clicking here.
Inspiro is a not-for-profit health service that provides diabetes education, dental for children and adults, counselling, physiotherapy and many other health services to residents of suburbs including:
Badger Creek, Bayswater, Bayswater North, Belgrave, Belgrave Heights, Belgrave South, Boronia, Chirnside Park, Coldstream, Croydon North, Croydon, Croydon Hills, East Warburton, Emerald, Ferny Creek, Healesville, Heathmont, Hoddles Creek, Kallista, Kalorama, Kilsyth South, Kilsyth, Launching Place, Lilydale, Lysterfield, Macclesfield, Menzies Creek, Millgrove, Monbulk, Montrose, Mooroolbark, Mount Dandenong, Mount Evelyn, Narre Warren East, Olinda, Ringwood, Ringwood North, Sassafras, Selby, Seville, Seville East, Silvan, Tecoma, The Patch, Tremont, Upper Ferntree Gully, Upwey, Wandin, Wandin North, Warrandyte South, Warranwood, Warburton, Wesburn, Wonga Park, Woori Yallock, Yarra Valley, Yarra Glen, Yarra Junction and Yellingbo.