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Nourishing Your Smile

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You may be able to prevent two of the most common diseases of modern civilization, tooth decay (dental caries) and gum (periodontal) disease, simply by improving your diet.

The process of decay begins when teeth are repeatedly subjected to acidic conditions. Naturally occurring oral bacteria convert food debris, especially sugars and starches, into an acid that attacks teeth. This results in tooth decay.

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, affects the supporting tissues of the teeth, leading to bone loss around teeth. Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. Although poor nutrition does not directly cause gum disease, many researchers believe that the disease progresses faster and is more severe in patients whose diet does not supply the necessary nutrients.

Poor nutrition affects the entire immune system, thereby increasing susceptibility to many disorders. People with lowered immune systems have been shown to be at higher risk for periodontal disease. Additionally, today's research shows a link between poor oral health and systemic conditions, such as diabetes, pulmonary and cardiovascular disease. Eating a variety of foods as part of a well-balanced diet may not only improve your dental health, but your overall health as well. Increasing fiber and vitamin intake may reduce the risk of other diseases.

Always keep your mouth moist by drinking lots of water. Saliva protects both hard and soft oral tissues. If you have a dry mouth, supplement your diet with sugarless hard candy or sugarless gum to stimulate saliva.

Foods that cling to your teeth promote tooth decay. When you snack, avoid soft, sweet, sticky foods, such as cakes, cookies, candy and dried fruits. Instead, choose dentally healthy foods such as nuts, raw vegetables, plain yogurt, cheese, sugarless gum and sugarless candy.

When you eat carbohydrates, such as crackers, cookies and chips, eat them as part of your meal, instead of by themselves. Combinations of foods can help neutralize acids in the mouth and decrease the chance tooth decay. For example, enjoy cheese with your crackers. Your snack will be just as satisfying and better for your dental health.

Eat a well balanced diet characterized by moderation and variety. Develop eating habits that follow the recommendations from reputable health organizations such as The American Dietetic Association and The National Institute of Health.

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If you have any questions about nutrition and your oral health, Dr. Mahlin will be happy to discuss them with you.

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