At McKinney Smiles, patients of Dr. Lawrence know that maintaining a healthy, great looking smile requires practicing quality oral hygiene at home and eating a balanced diet. While we don’t need to explain why brushing and flossing matters to most of our patients, it’s also important that everyone who comes to see Dr. Lawrence understand why their diet also matters.
Eating an unbalanced diet high in sugar helps to feed plaque, a sticky biofilm that grows in our mouths. Plaque uses the sugars we consume to produce acids that slowly erode away the enamel that protects the delicate roots and pulp inside our teeth.
The relationship between plaque and sugar consumption is why many of us have heard since childhood that sugar rots our teeth. Sugar itself doesn’t actually harm our oral health. Instead, it provides the fuel plaque needs to create cavities and cause gum inflammation.
An excess of plaque buildup – which occurs when we don’t brush or floss – can lead to the development of gum disease and cavities. For patients who eat too much sugar and who don’t brush or floss enough, this combination allows plaque to seriously undermine their oral health; leading to the development of cost problems that can seriously undermine their smiles.
Fortunately, the opposite is also true. Eating a balanced diet may actually improve gum health, according to a recent study.
A Healthier Diet Means a Healthier Smile
In the small study, German researchers examined 30 participants with early stage gum disease, a condition commonly referred to as gingivitis. Patients who have gingivitis will typically experience symptoms that include gums that become swollen, feel tender and that bleed easily, especially after brushing or flossing.
A dentist examined each of the participants to determine the severity of their gingivitis and to judge their plaque levels. Researchers also took blood samples, and asked the participants to fill out questionnaires regarding their diets. The researchers then randomized half of the participants, and placed them into a group that was asked to eat an anti-inflammatory diet. This diet was rich in fruits and vegetables, along with fish and nuts. The diet was also very low in trans-fatty acids, dairy products, sugar and other types of animal protein. Participants in the study group were also instructed to take vitamin D supplements.
The control group comprised of the remaining participants maintained their usual diet. Both groups were asked to refrain from using floss or any other way of cleaning between their teeth.
At the end of the 2-month long study, researchers discovered that, when compared to the control group, the study group enjoy higher vitamin D levels, lost weight and show significantly less bleeding in their gum tissue. However, no differences were noted between the amount of plaque were in the mouths of each group.
The results of this study led researchers to believe that most typical Western diets – meat, cheese and other dairy – helps to promote gum disease and tooth decay. While sugar consumption plays a role in helping to contribute to the development of cavities and gum disease, so too does a diet that doesn’t contain enough fresh fruits and vegetables.
Protecting Your Oral Health
Based on the results of this study, and other research, it’s safe to assume that eating a balanced diet plays a vital role in helping to protect an individual’s long-term oral health. While cutting back on sugar is important, so too is adding more fruits and vegetables. Just because a plate contains meat, dairy and starches like potatoes, rice or pasta doesn’t mean that it provides the nutritional value needed to keep your smile looking and feeling its best.
If you have any questions about the best diet or practices for keeping your oral health at its best, be sure to ask Dr. Lawrence during your next visit to McKinney Smiles.