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  • Writer's pictureElissa Strassman

7 Nutrition Tips to Support a Healthy Mouth

Updated: Feb 28

Cavities(caries, tooth decay), are the most common chronic disease of childhood, and periodontal disease(chronic inflammation and loss of bone and soft tissue that surround the teeth), is one of the most common chronic infections in people around the world. 


Periodontal disease has been linked to nearly 60 other adverse health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.


Both cavities and periodontal disease impact overall health and wellbeing. Poor oral health can impact nutrition, sleep, emotional and social wellbeing and contribute to lost time and productivity at work and school. 


The sad thing is, many oral diseases are preventable. 


What causes cavities or tooth decay?


Cavities are caused when bacteria in our mouth use sugar for food and make acids. Over time, these acids can make a cavity in the tooth.


So what can we do to help support oral health?


In addition to seeing your dentist two times a year, or when needed,  brushing your teeth two times a day, and flossing or cleaning between your teeth one time per day, here are a few nutrition tips, and a few lifestyle tips, that you can take to help keep your mouth healthy.


For something that we do know, is that nutrition is related to oral health and oral health is related to nutrition. 


7 Nutrition Tips to Support a Healthy Mouth:


1. Try to follow a balanced eating style, with sufficient energy to support your body’s needs.

  • Malnutrition may impact the development of the oral cavity, the progression of oral diseases, and reduced tissue repair. 

  • A balanced eating style is one that is sufficient in macronutrients, micronutrients, and energy to support your body’s needs. 

  • Dietary eating patterns associated with less risk to dental caries include fresh fruits and vegetables, protein and calcium rich foods, whole grain foods, and less frequency of added sugars. 


2. Incorporate plenty of fruits and vegetables, in lots of different varieties and colors. 

  • Fresh, crunchy fruits and vegetables have a high water content, which can help dilute the effects of sugar they contain, and can stimulate the flow of saliva, which can help protect the teeth from decay by buffering acid, and washing food particles away.

  • Vitamins and antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables can help support oral health, by decreasing inflammation, and supporting healing and building of tooth enamel and soft tissue.


3. Include protein and calcium rich foods as part of meals and snacks. 

  • Two minerals that play key roles in dental health are calcium and phosphorus. They both work to help protect and rebuild tooth enamel.

    • Cheese, milk, yogurt, calcium-fortified tofu, leafy greens and almonds, are all foods that may benefit teeth because of the calcium content and other nutrients they contain. 

    • Protein-rich foods like meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, beans and legumes contain the mineral phosphorus. 

      • Protein rich foods also help support the antibacterial properties of salvia, and healing of the oral cavity


4. Be aware of the foods that can stick to teeth, or may be less supportive to positive oral health.

  • Sticky foods include things like gummies, raisins, chips and pretzels. When stuck to teeth, they can feed bacteria and increase the risk of cavities.

    • Try eating these foods with other foods, to help decrease risk. 

  • Sugar sweetened and/or acidic beverages, like soda, fruit juice, sport and energy drinks, or other carbonated beverages with added acid(i.e. phosphoric acid, citric acid, malic acid), may increase risk for erosion and tooth decay.

    • If you do enjoy juice, soda, or some of the other beverages listed above, try drinking them with a meal, sipping them through a straw, and/or rinsing your mouth with water to help. 

  • Starchy snacks with added sugar, or slowly dissolving sugar sweetened hard candies/lollipops eaten in-between meals, on their own, may also increase the risk of cavities. 

    • Same as above, try pairing these foods with other foods at meal or snack times. 


5. Eat at regular intervals throughout the day. 

  • Frequent grazing, sipping on sugar sweetened or acidic beverages, or slowly dissolving sugar sweetened hard candies/lollipops, between meals has been correlated to tooth decay, so allowing some time between meals and snacks, may help to decrease risk for cavities, and promote positive oral health. 


6. Drink water with fluoride throughout the day. 

  • Not only can water help you to stay hydrated, but a dry mouth may put people at more risk for bacteria growth. 

  • Drinking fluoridated water helps keep teeth strong and also helps to reduce cavities/tooth decay. 


7. Chew sugar free gum. 

  • Sugar free gum can help produce saliva, and may help to reduce acid in the mouth. 


Some other lifestyle things you can do, to help support positive oral health:


  • See your dentist on a regular basis(two times a year, and as needed).

  • Brush your teeth twice, and clean between your teeth once, each day.

  • Work to quit smoking (if you are a smoker), and talk to your dentist/doctor about alcohol and opioid use, as these can all impact oral health. 

  • Work to manage stress and practice stress management techniques, for, yes, stress can impact oral health too.

  • Be an advocate for yourself: speak up if something feels "off", and ask for clarification if you need help in further understanding. 



7 Nutrition Tips to Support a Healthy Mouth

Resources:



Ehizele, Adebola & Ojehanon, PI & Akhionbare, Osagie. (2009). Nutrition And Oral Health. Benin Journal of Postgraduate Medicine. 11. 10.4314/bjpm.v11i1.48830. DOI:10.4314/bjpm.v11i1.48830


Touger-Decker R, Mobley C; Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: oral health and nutrition. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013 May;113(5):693-701. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2013.03.001. PMID: 23601893 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2013.03.001


Mark A. M. (2023). Feeding a healthy smile. Journal of the American Dental Association (1939), 154(7), 686. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adaj.2023.05.001 


Tungare S, Paranjpe AG. Diet and Nutrition to Prevent Dental Problems. [Updated 2023 Jul 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534248/

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