Oral Health & Nutrition

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mathew Tapia
  • 86th Dental Squadron

Believe it or not, flossing and brushing your teeth aren’t the only things that help maintain a healthy smile. There is an interconnected relationship that exists between our oral health, diet, and nutrition. Poor diet during our adolescence could affect the development and growth of your pearly whites, as well as cause oral diseases.

The American Dental Association recommends consumers avoid having excessive amounts of naturally added sugars and processed starches. This is because their by-products become the acids that could cause dental caries, also known as “cavities.”  This is where making healthy dietary choices could make a difference. Small changes, like switching from regular gum to sugar-free gum, could drastically improve your oral health.

Studies show that there is a direct link between the foods that we eat and the risk of developing dental cavities. Consuming large amounts of carbohydrates or sugars can lead to the formation of plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that adhere to teeth. These bacteria produce acids that lower the pH balance in the mouth, leading to breakdown of the tooth that over time leads to dental cavities. To maintain good oral health, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children to limit their intake of sugary foods and drinks, particularly those consumed between meals (snacks).

A study published in the Journal of Public Health Dentistry also found that children who consume sugary drinks have a higher risk of dental cavity formation compared to those who do not. Thus, while there are many risk factors that contribute to dental cavity development, one of the main influencing factors are the amount of sugar in our food and how frequency we have them. 

An effective preventive tool used to make teeth more resistant to dental cavities is through minerals, like fluoride. Fluoride increases tooth mineralization that makes teeth and bones more dense and less prone to cavity formation. Fluoride is also bactericidal, which means it’s toxic to cavity-causing bacteria.

Not only does the ADA recommend topically applying fluoride via toothpaste and at your dental visit, but the ADA also recommends having it systemically by drinking fluoridated water.  This is an easy way to introduce beneficial minerals in our diet. This makes it a useful tool that can be easily placed in our diet through our drinking water. Of course, you’ll want to check with your dentist before introducing fluoride to young children to ensure the amount is age appropriate.

Oral health is an integral part of one’s general health. Having good oral hygiene habits are just as important as the foods we choose to consume. Brushing twice a day and flossing, should be applied early in childhood to prevent an increased risk of developing dental cavities. Compromised teeth can decrease appetite and reduce the ability to eat. When purchasing toothpaste, one should look for a toothpaste that contain stannous fluoride or sodium fluoride. Both help prevent dental cavities.

If your live on Ramstein Air Base or Landstuhl, the water is fluoridated and safe to drink. However, if you live off-base, or on another neighboring military facility, the water is not fluoridated. However, fluoridated water is sold in all Kaiserslautern Military Community commissaries!

While having a well-balanced diet is very important to proper growth and development, maintaining a healthy oral environment is just as important. Employing healthy eating choices like limiting processed sugars and snacking, introducing protective factors like fluoride in our diet, and maintaining good oral hygiene are all key to oral and overall health!