Are you ready to sink your teeth into Thanksgiving turkey? What about the Christmas ham? The meats you enjoy probably won’t make the dentistry news headlines, but all of those delectable sweets just might! You know the old saying, “You are what you eat?” This is true when it comes to the health of your teeth. Drinking and snacking on sweet or starchy things is not just a treat for yourself, but for the plaque building up on your teeth as well. And while we don’t want to become the Grinch that stole your holiday treats, we would like to offer a few suggestions to combat those goodies and promote a healthy holiday smile.
High Fiber Fruits and Vegetables
Fiber is exceptionally good for your teeth, acting somewhat like a detergent in your mouth, helping to scrub off that unwanted plaque. There are a number of fruits and vegetables that have good fiber content, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to include a few more veggies into your holiday menu. At the top of the list are:
● Raw carrots
Not only do fibrous foods act as scrubbers, they also promote saliva flow, which aids in neutralizing acids and enzymes which attack your tooth enamel.
Incorporating dairy products into holiday meals is a cinch. Many recipes call for cheese, milk, yogurt, and other dairy products. What makes them so good for your teeth? The calcium in milk helps to build stronger enamel, providing better protection from those less healthful holiday choices.
Green and Black Tea
Do you have a soft spot for a steaming chai latte? A Chai latte actually has a couple of good things going for your teeth – milk and tea. Both green and black teas contain polyphenols that work to counteract plaque causing bacteria. Although tea is acid, the acidity is so weak that it does not affect your teeth. Rather, both black and green teas have been making dental news lately because they contain the properties that break down plaque bacteria, making them a good component of your healthy teeth arsenal. Just cut back on some of the sugar in that latte!
Eating for the health of your teeth need not be a bothersome chore; there are plenty of tooth-healthy foods that are delightful to the palate as well. Incorporating a few of these ideas into your traditional holiday fare is an easy step toward promoting a healthy smile.
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Medical researchers have long known that Vitamin D has many oral and overall health benefits, but there is growingconcern that deficiency of this critical nutrient is more common than once thought. Understanding the benefits of Vitamin D, where it comes from and who is at risk for deficiency could make an important difference in your general and oral health.
Somewhere along the way you can probably remember being told to have plenty of calcium in your diet to build strong bones and teeth… mothers admonish their children, and doctors advise pregnant mothers about the importance of getting adequate calcium. Fortunately calcium is everywhere – readily available in many of the foods we all love like milk, cheese, ice cream and even commercially added to orange juice, breads and cereals. Perhaps you didn’t know that without Vitamin D, the body can’t absorb that calcium… no matter how much of it you swallow!
According to a Canadian study, only about 10% of women in their second trimester of pregnancy had adequate Vitamin D levels, a phenomenon which was correlated the frequency of milk and prenatal vitamin consumption. Babies born to women with low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy may be at increased risk for tooth enamel defects and therefore, early childhood tooth decay. A diet lacking or low in vitamin D will contribute to a phenomena known as “ burning mouth syndrome”, symptoms of which can include dry mouth, a burning sensation of the tongue and oral tissues and a metallic or bitter taste. The condition is most common in older adults who, coincidentally, are frequently found to have a Vitamin D deficiency! Oral Health scientists have found that in addition to many general health benefits, Vitamin D helps to reduce inflammation in the body, which is widely known to have a direct impact on the development and severity of periodontal (gum and bone) disease. As a matter of fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Dentistry1 among 6700 research participants, those who had the highest blood levels of Vitamin D were about 20% less likely to have gum disease. Since more than half the people in the country have some form of gum disease, which may be a very good reason to drink your milk!
Vitamin D is produced naturally by the human body when skin is exposed to sunlight, but more often than not people choose to protect themselves from the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays. Sunscreen and protective clothing may prevent getting enough vitamin D from the sun; and deficiency is common among people who live in northern latitudes or otherareas that receive limited sunlight. Up to 50% of older adults have inadequate Vitamin D levels, perhaps partly due to decreased outdoor activity and sun exposure; and African Americans of all ages produce less Vitamin D, probably due to the darker color of their skin.
Although it is a rule of thumb that the best source of nutrients is a natural one, Vitamin D supplements are readily available over the counter and routinely recommended to individuals at risk for deficiency. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that Vitamin D drops be given to breast-fed infants, because breast milk usually has low levels of vitamin D. Do you have unexplained body or mouth symptoms? Could you be at risk … or have you been recently diagnosed with low Vitamin D levels? Your doctor and dental professional can advise you about the benefits of a supplement, and a recent discovery of Vitamin D deficiency is a good reason to schedule your regular dental checkup.
1. Journal of Dentistry (2005), 33:703–10.
Leave a comment | tags: bones, burning mouth syndrome, calcium, nutrient, oral health, periodontal disease, sunlight, supplement, Vitamin D, Vitamin D deficiency | posted in Uncategorized