You may have heard of Dr. Steven Lin’s book ‘The Dental Diet’, where the perspective is explored that one should not view bad oral health as a symptom of overall bad bodily health, but rather that good oral health should be considered a necessary practice to encourage full-body health. While we don’t have space in this humble article to overview and critique this approach we can, however, agree with it and give you some of the tools needed to make you r own ‘Dental Diet’ so that you can explore and take advantage of this innovative mindset to energize your body and promote overall good health at the same time. Let’s explore 15 Tips For Creating The Ultimate Diet for Healthy Teeth so that you can get started today!
Eating right doesn’t have to be a chore
Psychology today has demolished the myth that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. While it actually takes longer on average, however, it’s not as long as you think.
Try 66 days.
So, in approximately 2 months time you can realistic expect to effect a CHANGE. Now, how do you begin to get yourself into better eating habits? Here are two easy ways to create a foundation for your dental-friendly diet plans:
- Add some of our recommended foods to your shopping list.
- Get yourself a mini insulated lunchbox that you can load up with dental-diet goodies the night before, so that they can chill and are ready to go wherever you go.
Oral health reflects overall health
Now that it’s time for the tips we want to start with some overall health considerations and then we’ll get to the core diet information. While oral health can be indicative of certain conditions, rather than thinking of it as a ‘health meter’ it is preferred to take the ‘temple’ approach. That is to say that being particular about what you eat can make all the difference. Think of oral health as a means to overall health and you’ll be surprised with the results. Our first tips concern some special health considerations:
- 1. Age – As we age, the risk of periodontal disease rises. It is thought to relate to standard ‘wear and tear’ on our bodies, however, there are also a lot of dietary changes that advancing age may impose on us. If you have some special dietary considerations then you should ask your dentist or even a general practice doctor which items might be easiest on your stomach if you wish to adapt your diet.
- 2. Weight – If you are overweight then you are at a higher risk for many oral conditions, such as adipose tissue deposits in the oral cavity (lipoma) and greater chance of oral inflammations. The great news is that foods that are good for your teeth and oral health can also help with losing weight. You can get a new smile and a new you, just promise yourself one or two substitutions a day and you’ll see!
- 3. Eating disorders – If you are suffering from an eating disorder this has a strong effect on the PH balance in your mouth, so there are a number of conditions which may present themselves (Loss of enamel, swelling, lesions, and more). If this is the case be sure to consult with your doctor before making any dietary changes and if you do make some, approach the endeavor with patience. You can do this!
There are food choices out there that are not only extremely good for you, but that can help in cleaning your teeth as you eat! Our next 3 tips are going to give you some starting examples that you can help to choose for stocking up that new lunchbox. Some foods to consider are:
- 4. Fruits and veggies that ‘brush’ your teeth – Whenever you can, target high-fiber fruits and vegetables when it comes to meals and snacking. You’ll also want to go with the ‘raw product’ when it comes to these veggies. So, why is this? Well, crunchy, high-fiber raw veggies and fruit actually help to scrub your teeth as you eat them and increase salivation for further cleanliness. They also happen to be low in calories and filling, which is a pretty good bonus, so try substituting them for a single snack you regularly have during your day at first and see where it goes!
“High-fiber raw veggies and fruit actually help to scrub your teeth”
- 5. ‘Rinsing’ foods – While high fiber veggies will get you salivating more (which is great for cleaning), any vegetables that are high in water content can further help to rinse out your mouth and to help with overall hydration. The latter part is especially good for overall health as most of us don’t drink enough water, which can lead to water retention, lethargy, and a number of other issues. So why not hydrate while you clean?
- 6. Don’t forget (or overdo) nuts – Peanuts, cashews, and walnuts are good examples of nuts that you can eat to clean your teeth naturally and to stimulate the production of saliva to kill those pesky germs. They are also vitamin packed, but don’t overdo them as they are also high in calories!
Now that we have advised you on a few ‘food hacks’ that you can use, we would be amiss if we didn’t include a few tips in regard to nourishment. Some people like to take multivitamins and that’s okay, but we tend to prefer the ‘natural’ route and we’ll tell you why.
With multivitamins it is simply too easy to ‘overdose’ some of your daily vitamin levels.
If you are willing to ‘do the math’ to avoid this then you certainly can, but keep in mind that just from the oral health perspective you need your daily levels of the following:
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
As you can see, it’s a lot of vitamins. Rather than crunching numbers, if you are already a multivitamin user or simply wish to make a change that will help with oral health then give one or all of these tips a try:
- 7. Don’t forget your dairy – Dairy products are an excellent source for calcium and phosphates all wrapped up in a delicious delivery system that helps to rebuild enamel. Pack some favorite cheeses, add a glass of milk at breakfast, throw some yoghurts in your lunchbox… the last is good especially, because plain yoghurt has probiotics (friendly bacteria that is good for bones and more!).
- 8. Sailor selections – Fish oils, such as cod liver oil are a great way to get Omega 3 nutrients which not only help to keep periodontal disease at bay, but are packed with nutrients and said to help with joint stiffness. If the thought of taking a shot of lemon-pucker oil doesn’t sound appealing, however, you can always just eat fish like mackerel, salmon, oysters, or snack on a little ‘sardines and crackers’. Our second sailor-themed selection is citrus. While scurvy is not a worry for you, Vitamin C helps to strengthen up the soft tissues in your mouth, including your gums. You won’t be limited to oranges and limes, however, as Delta Dental of Washington reminds us that you can also get vitamin C in potatoes and leafy greens!
- 9. Anthocyanins – Anthocyanins occur naturally in foods like raspberries, eggplant (the peel), red cabbage, and blueberries and it’s good to have them in your system. This is because they are said to help prevent the attachment of various pathogens to host tissue, including those in your mouth. So, try to be like the sailors and show a little love in your diet for fish and the ‘C’!
We can’t exactly implement an effective dietary shift without giving a little focus on the drinking portion of the diet. After all, if you are washing down those healthy foods down with a soda every time then it’s going to complicate things. That said, here are a few general tips to help you when you are selecting optimal liquids to ingest on your diet. For instance:
- 10. Tea vs. Coffee – You might want to consider trying black or green tea for a week instead of coffee. Yes, coffee has more caffeine, but too much caffeine can dry out your mouth and coffee tannins do tend to stain your teeth.The University of Rochester Medical center, however, advises that green and black tea both contain polyphenols that can kill or keep bacteria at bay and still give you a little bit of that caffeine that you need in the morning. Just something to consider.
“Citrus varieties can be quite corrosive”
- 11. Sparkling water is okay… but watch out for citrus – Sparkling water is often recommended in lieu of sodas when it comes to keeping your teeth healthy. Clemeton Dentistry advises in their blog that the citrus varieties can be quite corrosive so you want to watch out for these. From what we’ve been able to find, the citrus varieties are about as corrosive as a glass of orange juice.
- 12. Be careful with Sports drinks – While sports drinks are packed with vitamins and can help you hydrate quickly, they are often very high in sugars as well. You can still use them but be sure to select your brand carefully or simply follow-up with a quick brush after workouts if you ingest them for best results.
Not all sugars are created equal and this is an important consideration when you are designing a ‘dental diet’ for yourself. Here are a few tips that can help you to make the right choices:
- 13. Know what bacteria likes to eat – Sherway Gardens dental centre had a great recommendation concerning the protection of your teeth. When it comes to sugars, keep in mind that ‘sweeteners’ generally don’t have actual sugars in them, but if you are ever confused about what you are ingesting simply keep this in mind. Bacteria likes to eat ‘fermented carbohydrates’, as such it doesn’t matter if a sugar is ‘natural’, if it’s sugar, it’s food for the bacteria, and that includes things like honey, glucose, sucrose, and more!
- 14. Synthetic sweeteners can make you hungry – Experiment a little with synthetic sweeteners if you are considering them for your diet. Studies seem to indicate that they can activate the ‘reward center’ of your brain, perhaps by the lack of calories, so it might be a good idea as well to track your intake while you are using them. This will help to ensure that you don’t end up gaining weight while trying to improve oral and overall health.
- 15. Xylitol gum – Chewing Xylitol gum is a sneaky ‘hack’ which you can use if you have a sweet tooth. This sweetener gives mouth bacteria something to eat that has no substance. Basically, it is edible but they cannot use it for energy, helping the bacteria to starve and weaken.
Today we have discussed 15 tips for creating the ultimate diet for healthy teeth and we hope that our humble suggestions have resonated with our readers. While it does take time to create new habits, if you mark your calendar you can count of that 66 days and see for yourself. Making a change is not only achievable but a great gift to yourself. Just remember that better oral health means better general health and before you know it those changes will become habit and you’ll find yourself wondering why you never did this before!
Dr. Steven Lin, “The Dental Diet”
Psychology today ; “Stop Expecting to Change Your Habit in 21 Day”
Delta Dental of Washington; ‘7 Vitamins and Minerals your mouth needs”
University of Rochester Medical Center; “The Best and Worst Foods for Your Teeth”
Clemeton Dentistry; “The Surprising Drink That Is Bad For Your Teeth”
Sherway Gardens Dental Centre; “Sugar, Sugar Substitutes, and Tooth Decay”