Nutrition and Teeth
March is National Nutrition Month, which is the perfect time to reevaluate your diet and habits, especially if your mighty New Years Resolutions have completely fallen away in the last couple of weeks. National Nutrition Month is put together by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, an organization of dietetic professionals dedicated to promoting healthy food choices and education. While we are excited to spend the month thinking deeply about how we nourish ourselves and our families, we thought we’d take a moment to consider the food we eat and the teeth we use to chew them. Our dietary choices do a lot to our teeth and our entire mouth. Here is a little food for thought as we experience National Nutrition Month.
Enamel is Key
Just in case you haven’t stared at a tooth anatomy poster in a while, let’s quickly refresh. A tooth has three hard protective layers: enamel, dentin and cementum. These layers protect the soft center tissue that nourishes the tooth, known as the pulp. Remember, the majority of a tooth lives below the gum line. The portion of the tooth that we see, use, and maintain is the crown. The crown is protected by enamel, which is a hard calcified tissue, the hardest tissue in your entire body. The enamel does the hard work of protecting the soft inner layers of your teeth from damage. It works in tandem with your saliva, which has cleansing and protective properties.
We focus on the enamel a lot because it’s the one portion of your mouth that cannot repair itself. Because there are no living cells in the tooth’s enamel, there is no way for it to prevent decay or repair significant wear. Once your enamel is gone, it cannot be replaced, and the rest of the tooth becomes vulnerable to damage. Because the enamel is your first line of defense against decay and destruction of a tooth, we spend a lot of time emphasizing the importance of proper maintenance and regular professional cleanings.
Some Foods Build, Others Erode
Foods that are high in acid can slowly weaken your teeth by eating at the enamel. It doesn’t happen instantly but, over time, and especially with irregular maintenance habits, that erosion can cause enough damage to require professional intervention. It’s hard to resist a good ripe grapefruit in the morning, or that freshly brewed cup of coffee as an afternoon pick-me-up. You don’t always have to. But be mindful that some of your food choices will have negative consequences for your teeth.
Coffee, citrus, tomato sauces, foods high in vinegar, and even alcohol can attack your enamel and cause sensitivity. High-calcium foods, like greens, yogurt, milk and cheese can have the opposite effects, balancing the acidic environment of your mouth and also adding helpful minerals to your body that can help maintain other portions of your teeth.
Couple Balance and Healthy Habits with Your Nutritional Needs
Figuring out new, healthy ways to nourish your body this month will likely mean including more fruits, vegetables, and high-acid foods in your diet. That’s perfectly ok. What works for you and your body is important. We want to remind you that your teeth and mouth are part of your body, so try to balance those highly acidic foods with low-acid options that will balance out the PH levels in your mouth and saliva, while also promoting other healthy benefits for all the rest of you! Also, don’t forget that a healthy body requires a healthy routine, so keep evaluating your daily maintenance habits while you are also evaluating your nutrition. Finally, a helpful team rounds out your entire strategy, so if you haven’t made an appointment to see a professional lately, make today your day.
Healthy teeth start with healthy habits. If you are using the month of March to take a closer look at your dietary needs thanks to National Nutrition Month, please keep your teeth in mind! A few tweaks and changes can make a difference in the life of your teeth. We’re here to support and maintain your natural smile!
Have questions about how endodontists support the maintenance and saving of your natural smile? Give us a call. We would be happy to talk to you about how we partner with your regular dental professionals to maintain your perfect smile.
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