Healthy Diet

Healthy Diet

A healthy diet is a healthy smile

Dental caries is caused by a thin film of bacteria called “plaque” that coats your teeth. When you eat or drink, the plaque bacteria digest any sugar and produce acids that attack your tooth enamel. The stickiness of plaque keeps these acids in contact with the enamel for some time after you have finished eating or drinking. With repeated and prolonged exposure to these acids, your enamel eventually can wear through, resulting in caries. It is important to remove plaque regularly by brushing your teeth twice daily and cleaning between your teeth with floss or another interdental cleaner once a day. If plaque builds up, it can cause swelling and bleeding of the gingival (gum) tissue. Eventually, the hard and soft tissues that hold your teeth in place can be damaged, and you run the risk of losing teeth. You should visit your dentist regularly for a complete oral examination and a professional cleaning.

Diet and your Dental Health

healthydiet2Attention to your eating habits can reduce your risk of developing caries. Frequent snacking or sipping on sugar-containing beverages such as soda, juices, sports drinks—even flavored waters—creates an environment for decay because it exposes your teeth repeatedly to acid attacks. Keeping an eye on the amount of sugar in your diet also can help protect your smile. Most foods contain some sugar. For example, fruits and vegetables contain sugars naturally, while other foods have added sugars. You can minimize the risk of developing caries as a result of consuming sugar by limiting foods with added sugar in your diet. Also, eat sweets as part of a meal rather than as a separate snack. Salivary flow increases more during meals than during snacks. Saliva helps weaken cavity-causing acids and rinses food particles from the mouth. Chewing gum also stimulates salivary flow. The increased flow adds calcium and phosphate to the saliva, which help strengthen tooth enamel. Chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals can help prevent tooth decay.

A BALANCED DIET

A balanced diet is important to maintain your overall health. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that you select a mix of foods from the following groups: fruits and vegetables, especially dark green or orange ones; foods made with whole grains, such as whole wheat bread, brown rice or oatmeal; milk products, such as low-fat yogurt or low-fat cheese; beans and meats, such as chicken, fish or lean beef; oils, such as cooking oils found in nuts and some types of fish. Your diet – including what and how often you eat—plays an important role in attaining and maintaining a healthy smile. Foods to avoid, by the way, include sugary drinks and snacks (the sugar promotes bacteria that increase acids that can erode tooth enamel and lead to cavities); some starchy foods such as rice, potatoes, and pasta (which also raise acid levels in the mouth); and, yes, coffee, tea, and red wine, which can stain teeth. Enjoy drinking water and sugar-free drinks as often as you can — they help wash acid-producing food from your mouth.

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