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Nutrition & Oral Health

April is Oral Health Month in Canada, and we will feature articles on proper dental care and oral health for the entire month, especially for seniors and their caregivers!


Today's article is brought to you by the Ontario Dental Association.


Dental health is a key part of general health. Just as our bodies need nutrients and care, so do our mouths. Here’s a list of vitamins and minerals that help keep teeth and gums healthy and where you can find them.


older woman smiling eating a salad
  • Calcium (yogurt, milk, cheese)

  • Phosphorous (egg, beef, chicken, turkey, halibut, bread)

  • Vitamin A (liver, pumpkin, carrots, sweet potato, mango, spinach, broccoli)

  • Vitamin C (citrus fruits, cantaloupe, strawberries, tomatoes, cabbage)

  • Vitamin D (trout, mackerel, salmon, tuna, egg yolk, milk)

  • Omega-3 fats (certain vegetable oils, walnuts, flaxseeds and soy products, seafood, and fish oils)

  • Fluoride (water, toothpaste, oral rinses)


Food and Your Teeth

Calcium (with help from phosphorous and vitamin D) is the main component of teeth and bones, keeping them strong. Vitamin A is necessary for the formation of tooth enamel, and Vitamin C is essential for healthy gums.


Phosphorus is stored in the teeth and bones. It is instrumental in helping your body balance and absorb calcium and magnesium.


Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay. In children, it works with calcium and phosphorous to help strengthen enamel. In older adults, it helps restore and harden enamel. If you want to know if there is fluoride in your water, contact your local health unit.

Snacking Habits & Dental Health

Frequent snacking, especially on sugary treats and drinks, creates an environment conducive to bacteria growth in your mouth. To promote dental health, opt for tooth-friendly snacks such as cheese, nuts, fruits, or raw vegetables if you need a snack.


Managing Sweet Treats

Bacteria thrive on sugars, increasing the risk of tooth decay. However, there are ways to enjoy treats while minimizing the negative impact on your dental health. Here are some tips:

  • Consume sweets during mealtimes rather than between meals, as you are likely to eat less of them. Additionally, the increased saliva produced during meals helps wash away sugar from your teeth.

  • Avoid hard candies that expose your mouth to sugar for extended periods and can potentially cause teeth to chip or crack when bitten.

  • Exercise caution with chewy candies and dried fruit, as they tend to stick to teeth and may even dislodge dental work like fillings.

  • Be mindful of hidden sugars in food, especially carbohydrates like pasta that break down into sugar.

  • Read food labels carefully, as sugar can be listed under various names, such as fructose and dextrose.

  • Keep track of the amount of sugar you add to your coffee or tea, as it can accumulate over time.


Protecting Against Acid Erosion

Certain beverages and snacks have a low pH level, making them more acidic. Acidic substances strip away protective minerals, leaving your teeth vulnerable to damage and increasing tooth sensitivity. Common culprits include fruit juices, sports drinks, and carbonated beverages like soda. To minimize the effects of acid erosion, consider the following:

  • Rinse your mouth with plain water to neutralize acid.

  • Eating a piece of cheese or drinking milk can also help counteract lingering acid.

  • Wait at least 30 minutes after eating before brushing your teeth, as this allows the acid level in your mouth to decrease and your enamel to re-harden.

  • Opt for water instead of sports and energy drinks, as the combination of sweetness and acidity can contribute to tooth decay and dental erosion.


If you have any questions about nutrition and dental health, don't hesitate to consult your dentist.



 

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