A healthy diet for healthy teeth

But what does a healthy diet actually involve, and what is an unhealthy diet?

Nowadays, there are countless scientific studies available that deal with the subject of a healthy diet. A major focus has also been on the effects on dental health when patients follow healthier and less healthy diets.

Very similar rules apply for the teeth as apply for the rest of the body. Teeth in particular receive a high exposure to what we eat and drink. The mouth, and in it, all of our teeth, make up the gateway through which all our nutrients enter the body. 

The digestion process begins with the teeth breaking food up into smaller pieces in the mouth. The composition of saliva is specially adapted for decomposition of food, even when it is still in the mouth. Saliva also contains other elements, such as minerals, bacteria, constituents of the body’s immune system, as well as slimy substances which aid in transporting the food.

“Sugar is damaging to the teeth”: something everyone knows. But many patients, of course, struggle to keep their teeth and gums healthy. This is because the sugar that comes pre-packaged in the supermarket is not the only cause. Many food products conceal sugar molecules, whilst other substances can be converted into simple sugars in the mouth by bacteria and the body’s own activity.

These bacteria feed on sugars and excrete acidic products as a result. It is these acids that effect the tooth enamel. The tooth enamel is the outer layer of the tooth. It plays an important role in preventing tooth decay (formation of dental caries). Tooth decay is the work of bacteria and occurs when bacteria have access to large amounts of sugar. This can be through eating sweet foods or drinking sugary drinks. These acidic products build up quickly and can go about attacking the teeth unimpeded. If there is no dental care at this point, the healthy teeth can be permanently destroyed by this tooth decay in little to no time.

A simple rule for good oral health and to protect against tooth decay is to reduce intake of sweet, sticky and good-tasting foods, and in place of these, eat a more balanced diet including more hard, fresh, less sweet and non-sticky foods.

An important tip for preventing tooth decay and formation of caries is to follow a balanced diet. We give all our patients advice on how to look after their teeth both as part of our dental treatments with the dentists, and in the professional cleaning appointments with our dental hygienists.

 

A diet for healthy teeth: what does it involve?

Vitamin-dense foods protect the teeth (especially those containing vitamin C and vitamin A), which include fresh fruit, raw vegetables and cereals.

Low-calorie protein products, unsweetened drinks and food;  Eat less fats, and ensure a generous intake of unsweetened, non-acidic drinks. 

Sometimes it is not the amount of sugar consumed that is responsible for effects on the teeth and bacteria of the mouth. The main problem may be the frequency of consumption of sweets which leads to the formation of caries. Many patients are unaware of the hidden sugars in many foods and drinks. For this reason, it may be those between-meal snacks that conceal sugars and lead to tooth decay. Just half an hour is long enough for bacteria to form a matrix of substances and anchor themselves to teeth, making it difficult for regular teeth cleaning to destroy this layer. If teeth cleaning is effective, however, this scaffolding formed by the bacteria falls apart, and they have to start rebuilding it from scratch.

As dentists we can explain the consequences of this using simple examples. If a patient eats an entire chocolate bar in one sitting, then it is less damaging than eating the same chocolate bar in small amounts over the day.

If patients manage to reduce the amount of sweet foods consumed between meals, adapt to a more balanced diet, and teach these important lessons to their children, this is something every tooth will be thankful for! This is the only way we can keep the threat of tooth decay in check.

Nowadays, there are many different sugar substitute products such as xylitol, cyclamate or aspartame, which are acidic and cause damage to healthy teeth and, in particular, the enamel. The paradox here is that these sugar substitutes are also contained in foods that are sold as “sugar free”, making these foods anything but what could be classed as “healthy”.

 


"
If we were to be more aware of our nutrition, we would also be doing our teeth a big favour. Dental caries depends greatly on dietary habits. In recent years, scientific work has made a significant contribution towards increasing awareness. You can help build on this success."

Ann-Sophie Werner, Dentist at the Dr. Hager Dental Practice

So, what are we meant to be doing day-to-day to ensure our teeth are cared for?

We have already outlined some points regarding what we can do in order to protect teeth against decay. In order to maintain dental health for a lifetime, we give our patients extra advice during our dental appointments and professional tooth cleaning appointments. These will allow you to actively protect your teeth, keeping them healthy and white for a lifetime:

We will give you tips on how to use electric toothbrushes more effectively, eat a sugar-free diet, or on how to lower sugar consumption. For some patients, reducing intake of sweet foods is more difficult. There is also a solution for these people: using tooth-friendly products as healthy alternatives. These include products such as sugar-free chewing gum or fruit, but where teeth are also not constantly exposed to acid products. 

If you consume too much fruit, then the problem is no longer tooth decay, but rather the tooth enamel becoming damaged directly by the acids in the fruit. 

If you consume too much fruit, then the problem is no longer tooth decay, but rather the tooth enamel becoming damaged directly by the acids in the fruit. This is called erosion and is easily recognised due to exposed tooth necks. It becomes clear that too much of one thing quickly throws the body off balance, be it too much fruit, or too much white sugar in the diet. That is precisely why healthy eating and a balanced diet are so important for the body.

We wish you the best of success in implementing these tips! Life-long dental health with big, bright smiles for you and your child.

Frequently asked questions

Does “sugar-free" really mean without sugar?

No. Unfortunately, this is a common trap people fall into, particularly creating difficult situations for people with diabetes. Sugar-free only means that there is no household sugar (sucrose) in the product. The products may, however, contain lactose, glucose and fructose.

Does diet have an effect on tooth decay (caries formation)?

Yes, absolutely. Too much sugar, too much fruit, snacking too often: these are all factors which promote tooth decay. The key words here are: a healthy, balanced diet.

sticky
sweet
tasty
soft
ready meals

vs:

not-sticky
unsweetened
healthy
hard
fresh

Should my child be eating sweets?

Where it can’t really be avoided, yes. But even then, they should be kept to meal times, and not for snacking between meals. Continual drinking throughout the day is particularly responsible for tooth decay. Even unsweetened water can wash away the protective saliva layer on the teeth. This then exposes teeth to acids.