Why Diet is More Important Than Brushing for Healthy Teeth & Gums

Older woman with healthy teeth eating and enjoying a green apple

You know that flossing and brushing twice daily is essential for oral health, but did you know what you eat is just as important? The proper diet can profoundly impact your dental and overall health. Even if you see your dentist in Lombard, IL, twice a year, your teeth are only in their best shape if you eat the right foods. This applies not only to the foods we eat but almost more importantly what we drink. We tend to drink beverages throughout the day and sip for extended periods of time, this gives the liquid extended time to stay in contact with the teeth. When your teeth never get a chance to buffer with saliva the pH drops and acid starts to attack. This acid attack breaks down the integrity of the teeth as they become demineralized leading to decay and painful cavities.

Ancient vs. Modern Diets

People long ago had to hunt and forage for food. They couldn’t walk into a store and buy what they needed. Instead, they ate what they procured – food in its purest form. These diets featured meats, fish, raw fruits and vegetables, nuts, and sometimes oils or butter.

Although many assume our ancestors had terrible teeth, this isn’t true. While their teeth may have been crooked or not as white as modern teeth, they were solid and healthy. Many indigenous people today who eat a traditional diet have healthy teeth throughout their lives.

Modern diets evolved because people began looking for foods that were readily available, cheap, and easy to prepare. People now eat diets laden with starch and sugars (not found in ancient diets) and heavily processed. These heavily processed diets containing refined carbohydrates eventually break down into sugar leading to a lower pH in the mouth. Again, this lower pH will eventually cause decay and painful cavities in the mouth.

What is Missing in Modern Diets?

Modern diets lack specific vitamins, such as Vitamin K2, which aids calcium distribution. Without K2, your body flushes out calcium rather than sending it to your bones, where it can strengthen bone density and prevent breakage. This same vitamin distribution happens in the teeth giving them more strength and density.

Today’s diets focus on taste. As a result, many foods are tenderized or soft. Cooked meat is easier to eat than raw meat, and vegetables are easier to eat when cooked. Unfortunately, cooking many vegetables and fruits removes essential nutrients. More importantly, we do not have to chew tough foods, grind, or tear food apart with our teeth.

In modern times, our teeth aren’t getting the workout they need to stay strong. Chewing foods strengthen the teeth and gums. The more raw fruits and vegetables you eat, the stronger your

teeth will be. Chewing also helps scrub away plaque on the gum line and remove debris between the teeth.

How Saliva Affects Dental Health

A dry mouth is annoying but can also damage your oral health. Saliva works on the extracellular level to provide nutrients to your teeth and gums. It also helps protect the teeth and gums from harmful bacteria that cause gum disease. A nutrient-rich diet low in sugars and empty calories is essential to the quality and quantity of saliva your mouth produces. You should also avoid acidic foods and too many carbohydrates.

Sucking on sugar-free hard candies can stimulate saliva production if you have a chronic dry mouth. Saliva, in sufficient amounts, helps wash away debris and bacteria in the mouth and keeps your breath fresh.

Yes, You Still Need to Brush Your Teeth!

It’s clear that eating a healthy diet that is high in nutrients and fiber but low in sugars and carbohydrates is crucial to preserving dental health, but that doesn’t mean you can neglect brushing your teeth.

You should brush twice daily and floss once a day. Brushing your teeth with a soft-bristle brush removes food debris and harmful bacteria that cause cavities. It also helps clean away plaque on the teeth. If you don’t brush and floss regularly, sugars collect around the base of teeth, where they convert to acids that attack your tooth enamel, leading to cavities and inflamed gums.

If you get lots of cavities or have swollen, tender gums despite diligent brushing and flossing, take a look at your diet. You may be defeating your dental care routine by eating foods and consuming drinks that are damaging your teeth.

To learn more about the importance of diet in protecting your teeth, contact our office at Lombard IL Cosmetic Dentistry Office Phone Number 630-627-1495 to schedule an appointment or consultation with Dr. Forcioli.