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June Is National Oral Health Month!

“Every tooth in a man’s head is more valuable than a diamond.”

Miquel de Cervantes


American Museum of Natural History

A History Of Teeth

It may seem odd that our teeth, such small pieces in a large system that are our bodies, can make such a big difference to our overall health. Dental care dates back over 5,000 years to the Egyptians who have the world's first dentist on record. Ancient Chinese texts also describe using silver paste to maintain oral health. So every time you go to brush your teeth (at least two times a day I hope) you are partaking and continuing an ancient and valuable practice of oral health care.

Why Oral Health Is So Important?

If eyes are the window to the soul then teeth are windows to our general health. I know it’s not very poetic but taking care of our teeth, gums, and tongue are an important part of our daily health routine. Our mouths, like other areas of our body, are swarming with bacteria. Not the most pleasant thought I know, but our mouths happens to be the entry route to our respiratory and digestive tracts where harmful bacteria can creep in and potentially cause disease. This won’t happen if you forget to brush your teeth every so often but longterm disregard for our oral health will most definitely catch up to you.


What Diseases Are Associated With Oral Health?

  • Endocarditis: A bacterial infection is the most common cause. It begins when bacteria or germs enter the bloodstream from another part of your body, such as the mouth and spread to the heart causing inflammation.

  • Cardiovascular Disease: Some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke maybe linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.

  • Periodontitis: This condition has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight and other pregnancy complications.

  • Pneumonia: Certain bacteria in your mouth can be pulled into your lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.

Existing conditions such as diabetes can also potentially cause gum disease due to the body's resistance to infection. People who suffer from diabetes and gum disease can experience a more difficult time controlling their blood sugar levels.


Pregnancy And Oral Health

Did you know that almost 75% of pregnant women have gingivitis?! This may seem shocking but this occurs because of the hormonal changes that take place in the body during pregnancy, causing the gums to become red and inflamed. If the gingivitis is not properly attended to with regular visits to the dentist and an oral health care routine like brushing after meals and flossing, teeth can become infected and may have to be extracted. Periodontitis has been associated with poor pregnancy outcomes, including preterm birth and low birth weight. If you needed a good incentive to brush and floss during pregnancy, you’ve got one!

Role of Nutrition In Oral Health

Sugary beverages and desserts have become an everyday occurrence for most Americans. In addition to the sugar adding extra calories and saturated fat into our diets, the bacteria in our mouths eat the sugar, which creates a more acidic environment, leading to cavities and/or enamel erosion. It’s important to enjoy ourselves and one sweet treat over the weekend is ok to indulge in. Problems occur (with our weight and teeth) when we consume sodas, sweet teas, juices, pastries, cookies etc. every day or even multiple times a day, increasing bacteria and our waistlines.

According to the USDA, sugar should make up no more than 10% of your daily calories. For women, that is 10-15 tsp. per day. For men, it’s 12.5-18.75 tsp. This is not a lot of sugar. In fact, to put into perspective, just one glass of apple juice would put many people at (or just under) their limit for the entire day.

The best option would be to completely eliminate sugary drinks from our diet, but I understand that that is easier said than done. Reducing the number of sugary beverages is much more manageable, or even finding healthier substitutes that would still satisfy carbonated cravings would be a great first step!


Below are some healthier choices that the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends as you begin your exciting new journey into reducing sugary drinks. Better for your teeth and better for your weight. It’s a win, win!


Lots of Sugar Better Choices

Soda

Water

Energy Drinks

Unsweetened tea

Fruit punch or juice

Diluted juice

Chocolate milk

Milk

Smoothies

Plain sparkling water


Role of Nutrition And Oral Health

I mentioned multiple times is my posts that eating a well balanced diet is key to optimal health. This means including foods such as fruits, vegetables, protein, whole grains and dairy into our daily diet helps provide essential nutrients for our bodies and our teeth and gums. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics have several food group suggestions below!


Foods for Optimum Oral Health

  • Calcium-rich foods, such as low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese, and fortified soy milk help promote strong teeth and bones. Other sources of calcium include tofu (made with calcium sulfate), canned salmon, almonds and some dark green leafy vegetables.

  • Phosphorus, a mineral found in eggs, fish, lean meat, dairy, nuts and beans is good for strong teeth.

  • Vitamin C promotes gum health, so eat plenty of sources, including citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, potatoes and spinach.

Healthy snacking can also help keep your mouth in good shape. Opt for nutritious choices such as raw vegetables, fruits, plain yogurt (keep an eye on sugar content) and popcorn.

What Can I Do For My Oral Health?

To protect your oral health, practice good oral hygiene daily.

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes each time. Use a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste. Brush after snacking too as needed or rinse your mouth out with water.

  • Floss daily.

  • Use mouthwash to remove food particles left after brushing and flossing.

  • Eat a healthy diet and limit sugary food and drinks.

  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or sooner if bristles are splayed or worn.

  • Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings.

  • Avoid tobacco use.

What Advice Can I Follow For Healthy Teeth?

You can keep your teeth for your lifetime. Here are some things you can do to maintain a healthy mouth and strong teeth.

  • Drink fluoridated water and brush with fluoride toothpaste.

  • Practice good oral hygiene. Brush teeth thoroughly twice a day and floss daily between the teeth to remove dental plaque.

  • Visit your dentist at least once a year, even if you have no natural teeth or have dentures.

  • Do not use any tobacco products. If you smoke, quit.

  • Limit alcoholic drinks.

  • If you have diabetes, work to maintain control of the disease. This will decrease risk for other complications, including gum disease. Treating gum disease may help lower your blood sugar level.

  • If your medication causes dry mouth, ask your doctor for a different medication that may not cause this condition. If dry mouth cannot be avoided, drink plenty of water, chew sugarless gum, and avoid tobacco products and alcohol.

  • See your doctor or a dentist if you have sudden changes in taste and smell.

  • When acting as a caregiver, help older individuals brush and floss their teeth if they are not able to perform these activities independently.

Just like healthy living and eating, think about what you eat and when you eat it to promote optimal health for yourself and your teeth….and Remember….Health starts from the inside out….but also from the ground up!


To discuss more detailed information regarding the topics within this blog, or to inquire about customized nutrition plans, please reach out to Cathleen Winter at cathleen@wellnesswithincw.com


A Little About Me

My name is Mary DeBlasio, and I live in Silver Spring, MD. I recently graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics in May of 2021. I am very interested in mindful eating, and foods that correlate with the seasons. I am currently working as a WIC Nutrition Assistant in Washington, DC. All my information is backed by credible sources cited within the blog.

Sources

Eat healthy. MyPlate. (n.d.).

Ellis, C. E. (n.d.). Healthy Nutrition for Healthy Teeth. EatRight.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, October 28).

Nutrition. Mouth Healthy TM. (n.d.).

Oral Health Month - June. National Today.




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