If I asked you what you thought was the most important diet/dental link, what would you say? Would you say not eating candy and sugary foods because they cause cavities? You certainly wouldn’t be wrong. If you said eating a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits is good for healthy teeth, again you wouldn’t wrong. The typical high sugar, Western or SAD diet are definitely working against dental health. But for most people, it would end there.
Certainly eating a lot of processed foods which typically contain artificial additives and sweeteners (in lieu of sugar, but not any better!) will not provide the nutrition to keep your teeth healthy. Unfortunately in this fast-food world in which we live, many people default to fast foods or processed foods because of being perpetually busy and short on time. We are all busy and we all have the same 24 hours so for me this isn’t a good enough excuse. We make time for whatever we deem to be important. So it’s more about setting priorities but that’s a topic for another post.
What we are learning now is that the kind of food you eat affects your mouth in another way. It changes the composition of the bacteria. Consider this statement by Professor Alan Cooper, ACAD Director:
“The composition of oral bacteria changed markedly with the introduction of farming, and again around 150 years ago. With the introduction of processed sugar and flour in the Industrial Revolution, we can see a dramatically decreased diversity in our oral bacteria, allowing domination by caries-causing strains. The modern mouth basically exists in a permanent disease state.”
DNA preserved in calcified bacteria on the teeth of ancient human skeletons reveals how the changing diet and behavior from the Stone Age to the modern day has impacted dental health. It shows how the dietary shifts as we moved from hunter/gatherers to agricultural to manufactured foods has caused negative changes in our oral bacteria.
1.Carbohydrates like grains and refined sugar cause a specific type of oral bacteria to be released in order to digest the particles or ‘residue’ of carbs that are left behind on your teeth after you eat. This particular bacteria mixes with your saliva and forms plaque, which eats away at tooth enamel and causes cavities.
Cavities became common when grains were introduced into our diets.
Often when people avoid animal protein in an effort to improve their health, they add in grains to replace them. We begin digesting grains in our mouths so when you increase how much you consume you are doing a lot of this digestive work and it can’t help but affect your teeth. If you are getting more cavities, maybe it is in part due to increasing the amount of grains you are eating.
2.Also, it may surprise you to know eating a low fat diet can negatively impact your dental health. You need healthy fats in order to absorb and utilize fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. Vitamins D and K are especially critical to dental health since they are needed in order to absorb calcium and deposit it where it is needed – in bones and teeth.
3.If you eat a mostly plant based diet that includes beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, you should be aware that those very healthy foods contain phytic acid which inhibits your ability to absorb the minerals in those foods. It’s also been found to hinder absorption of vitamin D as well.You don’t have to stop eating them, you just have to soak and/or sprout them in order to deactivate the phytic acid so your body has access to the minerals so important to your gums and teeth.
Is it possible your diet could be causing your dental problems?
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Ann, I always learn so much from you!
Thank you Debbie. I always appreciate your support and comments.
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