Part I of The Right Diet for Your Teeth addressed the damaging effect that sugar can have on the teeth. But sugar isn’t the only food item that can harm the teeth.
Acidic foods and drinks are also harmful, as the acid wears away the enamel and leaves the dentine (the tissue that makes up the bulk of the tooth) uncovered. The process is called dental erosion; it causes tooth sensitivity and affects the appearance of the teeth, leaving them less attractive.
The acidity of a food product is measured by its “pH value.” The lower the pH value assigned to a food / drink item, the more acidic it is. Any item with a pH value below 5.5, such as vinegar, red wine, cola, pickles, grapefruit and orange juice, can cause erosion. But the effects of acid can be reduced by “alkalines” – foods and drinks with high pH numbers, like carrots.
Poor food choices can also have an impact on your gums. When certain nutrients are missing in your diet, it is harder for the tissues in your mouth to resist infection. This impaired ability to resist infection can lead to gum disease, the results of which can range from tooth loss to poor heart health. It can even cause premature delivery or low-birth-weight babies if gum disease in the expectant mother is not treated promptly. Many researchers believe that gum disease progresses faster and has the potential to become more severe in those who have a poor diet.
Pay attention not only to what you eat, but when you eat as well. Foods that are consumed during a meal do less harm than snacks eaten throughout the day. This is because you produce more saliva during a meal than during a snack. Saliva washes food from the mouth and reduces the impact that acids have on the teeth, thereby reducing the risk of decay and cavities. In short, limit the snacks you eat between meals to promote healthy teeth and gums. When you do snack, choose fruits or vegetables and avoid the foods that cause tooth decay, such as sweets.
When you choose a healthy diet, you are doing your teeth and gums a favor. They’ll return the favor with a beautiful smile that will last you a lifetime.