Surely most people have heard from their parents about how sugar destroys teeth, and therefore you can’t eat a lot of sweets, otherwise your teeth will all fall out before you get a passport. The parents were not so wrong, because in fact there is a connection between nutrition and dental health — and a very significant one. MedAboutMe figured out how to eat right to keep strong, healthy and beautiful teeth.
Processes of tooth damage
Erosion of the tooth surface
In contact with the surface of the teeth, some drinks and foods cause their erosion. This is the name of the progressive and irreversible loss of hard tissues of the tooth, caused by the chemical process of dissolving enamel under the action of food acids without the participation of bacteria.
Dentists distinguish two types of influences:
- external — enamel demineralization under the action of products with an acidic pH: for example, citrus fruits, as well as dietary supplements and medicines with vitamin C (ascorbic acid);
- internal — frequent vomiting on the background of mental disorders (anorexia, bulimia), as well as regurgitation (reverse reflux into the esophagus) of the contents of the stomach with GERD or pathologies of the gastrointestinal tract.
There is another important factor — the lack of saliva. Then the teeth are not washed enough with saliva, which, among other things, neutralizes the acidic pH. For teeth, the most «pleasant» pH is 5.5, and anything less leads to tooth decay. And teeth damaged by erosion become more vulnerable to caries bacteria.
But it should be noted that caries bacteria themselves contribute to the destruction of enamel. So, the most common of them is Streptococcus mutans. This type of streptococcus feeds on simple carbohydrates from food and at the same time produces lactic acid, which disrupts the acid-base balance in the oral cavity. When the pH drops to acidic values, phosphorus and calcium ions are washed out of the enamel — remineralization of the tooth tissue occurs, which also opens the way for bacteria.
Streptococcus mutans and another tooth-damaging bacterium, Streptococcus sobrinus, break down the sucrose found in foods. When these foods are processed by bacteria, plaque forms on the teeth. Sooner or later, it causes inflammation of the gums, which leads to the formation of periodontal pockets. These spaces are colonized by anaerobic bacteria, which begin to destroy bone tissue.
One of the significant risk factors for the development of periodontal disease is the deficiency of antioxidants. There is evidence of a relationship between periodontal disease and deficiency of vitamin D, calcium, folic acid. It is also shown that the lack of magnesium has a bad effect on the stability of the bone tissue of the jaws.
Fatty foods have a bad effect on the state of the periodontium. For example, hyperlipidemia (excess blood lipids) is associated with increased gingival bleeding, periodontal pocket depth, and serum levels of inflammatory cytokines. But omega-3 fatty acids, in particular, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), reduces the incidence of periodontal tissue damage.
Surprisingly, the health of a person’s teeth even before he was born (and the appearance of the first teeth) depends on the diet and lifestyle that his mother adhered to during pregnancy.
So, Norwegian scientists from the Institute of Clinical Dentistry in their article for 2011, published in the European Journal of Oral Sciences, argue that caries under the age of 5 years can develop not at all after eating candy stealthily, but due to the fact that the mother of the child during pregnancy gained too many extra pounds and was fond of fatty and sweet foods. Well, even if she was a poorly educated person.
Food that destroys dental health
So, among the key factors affecting the condition of the teeth and related to nutrition, scientists distinguish the following:
- deficiency of calcium and vitamin D,
- foods with an acidic pH
- simple carbohydrates, especially in the composition of products that stick to the teeth, settling on them,
- antioxidant deficiency,
- deficiency of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids,
- lack of fruits and vegetables,
- deficiency of non-starchy polysaccharides, etc.
We mentioned above about internal and external destructive influences. Speaking of harmful products, we can say that external products with an acidic pH include citric, phosphoric and ascorbic acids, malic and tartaric acids, soft drinks — carbonated and non-carbonated, herbal teas, dry wines and products containing vinegar.
According to a Canadian-Chinese group of scientists published in 2017 in the journal PLOS One, the list of factors leading to tooth erosion includes:
- soft drinks with sugar — an increase in the risk of erosion of tooth enamel by 2.4 times due to low pH and the love of caries bacteria for sugar;
- chewing vitamin C tablets is also due to the low pH. At the same time, vitamin C deficiency in the body is a direct path to the development of periodontal disease.
At the same time, the researchers point out that juices and sports drinks, contrary to popular belief, do not increase tooth erosion.
Dietary Principles Good for Dental Health
In the list of products that reduce the risk of developing caries, as well as in the list of healthy eating habits, experts include:
- Fruits: apples, oranges, pears and bananas. Especially instead of sour fruit juices with added sugar.
- Vegetables: Carrots, celery, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, nuts, and potato chips.
- Dairy products: cheese, milk, yogurt, which are a source of dietary calcium, phosphate and casein.
- Sugar-containing foods — only during main meals, and not as snacks.
- Eating products with xylitol.
- Reducing the total amount of sugar and other carbohydrates consumed.
- Rinse your mouth with plain water after drinking sugary drinks, sweet snacks, and chewing vitamin C supplements.
- Tea (not herbal) and coffee without sugar.
- Avoiding sugar and sticky sweets before bed.
- Introduction to the diet of fish with a high content of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
It is also believed that some products have anti-caries activity. These healthy foods include foods with xylitol or fluoride added, green tea, apples, red grapes, red wine, nutmeg, Indian cumin, coffee and barley coffee, chicory, mushrooms, cranberries, liquorice root, myrtle ethanolic extract, aqueous extract. garlic, cocoa extract and propolis.
A quick look at the recommendations for proper nutrition for maintaining dental health shows that, in general, it is about following the basic principles of a healthy diet, as well as maintaining normal levels of vitamins and minerals.
Diet, nutrition and the prevention of dental diseases. / Moynihan P, Petersen P.E. // Public Health Nutr. — February 2004 — 7(1A):201-26
Dietary factors associated with dental erosion: a meta-analysis. / Li H, Zou Y, Ding G. // PLOS One. — 2012 — 7(8)
Maternal health and lifestyle, and caries experience in preschool children. A longitudinal study from pregnancy to age 5 yr. / Wigen T.I., Wang NJ. // Eur J Oral Sci. — Dec 2011 — 119(6):463-8