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Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Bleach Your Teeth
Dental Anesthesia
Dental Implants
Dentures: Get Your Smile Back
Extraction of Wisdom Teeth
Fluoride and Your Health
Night Guards/Splints
Nutrition & Dental Health
Oral Cancers
Porcelain Laminate Veneers
Pregnancy and Oral Health
Root Canal Therapy
Temporomandibular Disorders TMJ/TMD
The Right Time for Braces
Tooth Decay: A Preventable Disease
Women's Dental Health
Your Child's First Dental Visit
Your Child's Teeth and Gums: Tips for Parents

Nutrition & Dental Health
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How does what I eat affect my oral health?


You may be able to prevent two of the most common dis≠eases of modern civilization, tooth decay (caries) and peri≠odontal disease, simply by improving your diet.


Decay results when the hard tissues are destroyed by acid products from oral bac≠teria. Certain foods and food combinations are linked to higher levels of cavity-caus≠ing bacteria. Although poor nutrition does not directly 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. Peri≠odontal disease affects the supporting tissues of the teeth and is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.

Poor nutrition affects the entire immune system, there≠by increasing susceptibility to many disorders. People with lowered immune sys≠tems have been shown to be at higher risk for periodontal disease. Additionally, today's research shows a link between oral health and systemic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. So eating a variety of foods as part of a well-balanced diet may not only improve your dental health, but increasing fiber and vita≠min intake may reduce the risk of other diseases.


How can I plan my meals and snacks to promote better oral health?


Eat a well-balanced diet char≠acterized by moderation and variety. Develop eating habits that follow the recommenda≠tions from reputable health or≠ganizations such as The Ameri≠can Dietetic Association and The National Institutes of Health. Choose foods from the four basic food groups: fruits and vegetables, breads and ce≠reals, milk and dairy products, meat, chicken, fish or beans. Avoid fad diets that limit or eliminate entire food groups which usually result in vitamin or mineral deficiencies.


Always keep your mouth moist by drinking lots of water. Saliva protects both hard and soft oral tissues. If you have a dry mouth, supplement your diet with sugarless candy or gum to stimulate saliva.

Foods that cling to your teeth promote tooth decay. So when you snack, avoid soft, sweet, sticky foods, such as cakes, candy and dried fruits. Instead, choose dentally healthy foods such as nuts, raw vegeta≠bles, plain yogurt, cheese and sugarless gum or candy.

When you eat fer≠mentable carbohydrates, such as crackers, cookies and chips, eat them as part of your meal, instead of by themselves. Combinations of foods neu≠tralize acids in the mouth and inhibit tooth decay. For exam≠ple, enjoy cheese with your crackers. Your snack will be just as satisfying and better for your dental health.

One caution: malnutri≠tion (bad nutrition) can result from too much nourishment as easily as too little. Each time you eat, you create an environment for oral bacteria to develop. Additionally, studies are showing that den≠tal disease is just as related to overeating as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and hyper≠tension. So making a habit of eating too much of just about anything, too frequently, should be avoided.


When should I consult my dentist or dietitian about my nutritional status?


Always ask your dentist if you're not sure how your nu≠trition (diet) may affect your oral health. Conditions such as tooth loss, pain, or joint dysfunction can impair chew≠ing and are often found in el≠derly people, those on restric≠tive diets and those who are undergoing medical treat≠ment. People experiencing these problems may be too isolated or weakened to eat nutritionally balanced meals at a time when it is particularly critical. Talk to your dental health professional about what you can do for yourself or someone you know in these circumstances.



Sources: "Diet and Dental Health," by Connie Mobley, PhD, RD, and Michael W. Dodds, DDS, PhD, Top≠ics in Nutrition, 1999; Warren B. Karp, PhD, DMD, "Nutritional Up≠date for the Dental Health Profes≠sional," CDA Journal, 1999;† "Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease," ninth edition; Williams and Wilkins 1999; The California Dental Association.



This information was compiled for you by the Academy of General Den≠tistry. Your dentist cares about long-term dental health for you and your family and demonstrates that concern by belonging to the Academy of General Dentistry. As one of the 35,000 general dentists in the United States and Canada who are members of the Academy, your dentist participates in an ongoing program of professional development and continuing education to remain current with advances in the profession and to provide quality patient treatment. Visit the AGD's website at You have permission to photocopy this page and distribute it to your patients.

July 1999 AGD IMPACT

Posted† July 4, 1999† [TCJ]

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