Is your diet detrimental to your dental health?


By Dr. Stephen Durham

You brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day, keep all recommended dental check-ups, and consume a diet that’s healthy for your teeth. Or at least you think you do when it comes to that last part.

For example, you drink citrus juices, diet sodas, or energy drinks because you assume that they are healthier for your body and teeth than sugary sodas. Thousands of other people do the same thing to avoid the sugar, but they do not realize just how much acidic content these beverages contain.  When your teeth are exposed to the acid contained in these drinks it can damage them by eroding the enamel. Your saliva will neutralize smaller amounts of acidic drinks and re-mineralize your teeth, but if you drink several bottles per day it cannot keep up. Over time this can be a major source of tooth decay.

Choose More of These Foods for Improved Oral Health

Foods high in calcium, protein, and nutrients are better for your teeth than those with a high sugar or fat content. The next time you’re at the grocery store, consider adding some or all of the following to your cart:

• Yogurt: In addition to containing high amounts of protein and calcium, yogurt introduces probiotics into your mouth. Also known as good bacteria, probiotics help to fight off the bad bacteria that can lead to tooth decay and cavities. However, you could do more harm than good if you consistently add sugar to the yogurt or choose brands that add artificial flavors and colors.

• Cheese: Consuming this dairy product helps to increase the level of pH in your mouth, which in turn helps to lessen the chance of tooth decay. Another benefit of eating cheese is that it requires a lot of chewing. This produces significant saliva to keep your teeth cleansed until you get the chance to brush them. The protein and calcium also help to strengthen the enamel of your teeth.

• Leafy green vegetables: Like cheese and yogurt, leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach are high in calcium, protein, vitamins, and minerals. They also contain folic acid, which can help women avoid developing gum disease during pregnancy.

• Carrots: Because this vegetable requires a lot of chewing, it produces saliva that helps to keep bacteria at bay. Additionally, carrots are a good source of fiber and Vitamin A. Both are good for your oral health as well as your overall physical health.

• Almonds: Almonds contain high amounts of protein and calcium but little to no sugar. They tend to make a filling snack as well, so reach for a quarter cup of almonds instead of a sugar-filled treat the next time you need a little energy boost.

• Apples: Although apples are sweet, they make up for it by providing you with plenty of water and fiber and producing a lot of saliva. In addition, an apple’s fibrous texture makes it ideal to stimulate your gums and prevent gum disease.

If you need more tips on healthy eating or want to ensure that your teeth are in the healthiest possible condition, just ask your knowledgeable dental team at your next regular hygiene appointment.

A recipient of the 2012 Mastership Award from the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), Dr. Stephen Durham is a graduate of Clemson University and the Medical University of South Carolina College of Dental Medicine. Dr. Durham practices at Durham Dental at Town Center in Beaufort. For more information, visit his website at www.DrStephenDurham.com or call 843-379-5400.

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