Even before your baby is born, the teeth, which begin to form very early in pregnancy, can be protected. Your diet affects the way your baby’s teeth develop. It is especially important that you get enough protein, calcium, phosphorus and vitamins A, D, and C. Following “Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating” will ensure a healthy diet for good general and oral health, for both you and your baby.
Did you know that every time you eat certain foods, you are not only feeding yourself, but the germs or bacteria that live in your mouth? Bacteria are found in the sticky material that forms on your teeth and along your gumline, called plaque. These bacteria love to eat the sugars and starches found in many foods. They then produce acids that break down the hard surface of the tooth, called enamel. Over time, a cavity can form.
You may know that table sugar as well as sugar found in foods such as candy and soft drinks can cause cavities. Did you know that the bacteria can also use the sugars or starches found in many healthy foods such as fruit, milk, breads and cereals? The key is not to avoid these foods, as you need them for a healthy balanced diet. However, it is important to look at when and how often you eat them. Each time you eat a food containing a sugar or starch, the bacteria produce harmful acids for as long as two hours afterward! Frequent snacking on these types of foods can increase your risk of cavities.
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an infection of the soft tissues supporting the teeth. It is caused by plaque bacteria that produce not only acids, but toxins that attack gum tissue. In early gum disease, called gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen, and bleed easily. The good news is that early gum disease can usually be reversed with good oral hygiene. If not, the disease can progress. The inflamed gum tissue can separate from the teeth and form spaces called pockets. Bacteria then move into the pockets, where they continue to cause irritation. If left untreated, the gums and bone that support the teeth can be damaged. This is called periodontitis. Eventually, the teeth can become loose and fall out, and the bone can be destroyed. In fact, periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss over the age of 35.
The main cause of gum disease is plaque build-up on the teeth and along the gum line. The same diet suggestions that prevent cavities will also help to prevent gum disease. A lack of certain nutrients can also affect the health of your mouth. Because cells in the mouth turn over very quickly, signs of missing nutrients are often first seen in the mouth. Healthy oral tissues depend on eating enough protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, B vitamins and folic acid. For healthy bones that support the teeth, you need to have enough calcium, vitamin D, magnesium and phosphorus in your diet. Studies have shown that bone loss in the lower jaw may come before bone loss seen in osteoporosis (a disease where bone tissue is weakened).
No matter what you eat, good oral hygiene is essential.
Tooth decay can occur as early as infancy. If your baby or toddler falls asleep nursing or sucking on a bottle of milk, juice or a sweetened liquid, the fluid pools around the teeth and cavities can develop. Take your baby off the breast or bottle when they fall asleep. If they want a bottle in bed, water is the best choice.
Young children who grow up drinking juice and soft drinks are not going to switch to milk when they are teens. Sweetened drinks often replace milk, with its bone and tooth-building nutrients. Frequent intake of sweetened beverages increases the risk of tooth decay.
Anyone at any age can develop gum disease, but advanced stages are more common in adults. Those with diabetes or immune (defence) system illnesses are more at risk of developing gum disease. Certain conditions or medications that cause a dry mouth can also increase the risk of gum disease, as saliva has a protective effect.
ORAL SIGNS OF INADEQUATE
|Vitamin A||Poor bone and tooth formation, dry mouth||Dark green and orange vegetables and fruits, milk and milk products|
|Vitamin C||Poor tooth formation, gingivitis with easy bleeding, poor healing||Citrus frutis and juices, peppers, strawberries, tomatoes|
|B-Vitamins||Cracks at the corner of the mouth, sore inflamed tongue||Whole grain and enriched breads, cereals and pasta, meats and alternatives, milk and milk products|
|Folic Acid (Folate)||Gingivitis, sores on the tongue or roof of the mouth||Cooked beans, peas and lentils, dark leafy greens, oranges, enriched breads, cereals and pasta|
|Vitamin D and Calcium||Delayed tooth develpment, poor enamel, jaw bone loss||Vitamin D: Sunlight helps the body produce vitamn D. Fortified milk and margarine, fish liver oils and fish (especially salmon, mackeral, sardines, tuna). Calcium: Milk and milk products, calcium-fortified beverages (soy, orange juice), canned salmon, cooked beans, almonds, broccoli|
|Protein||Delayed tooth eruption, cracks at the corners of the mouth, sore swollen tongue||Meats and alternatives, milk and milk products|
Gum disease also increases the risk of tooth decay. When the gums recede (pull away) from the teeth, the roots of the teeth are exposed to plaque. The roots are not protected by enamel, and so are not as strong in resisting the harmful effects of acids.
Choosing the right kinds of foods for a healthy mouth can be a challenge. For more information, talk to your dentist, dental hygienist or a dietitian.