Written by Bonnie Feldman, DDS, MBA, Becca Malizia, BS, and Ellen M. Martin
For some of us, our day-to-day lifestyle has become used to the foods that surround us — foods high in sugar and taste but low in nutritional value and benefit to our oral health. Our mouth is an important part of our body that helps us speak, breath, eat and digest food. Without our mouths, us humans would be disadvantaged when trying to fuel ourselves with energy. To make our lives a little easier, here are 5 diet tips for a happy, healthy mouth.
1. Avoid sticky foods
Most obviously this could refer to candy, but also think about sweet cakes, licorice, dried fruits, even something like Cheetos that can start off crunchy but quickly gets embedded in your teeth. Sticky foods do just as the name implies, they get stuck in your teeth. This can result in longer contact between the sugary components of the foods and the bacteria on our teeth, resulting in more tooth decay.
2. Ditch the soda, carbonated water too
Yes, even the zero calorie, no added sugar bubbly water can disrupt your oral microbiome. The process of carbonation turns neutral water into a more acidic product. Bubbled water has a pH between 3-4, whereas regular water has a pH of 6.5-8.5. Soda is far worse than sparkling water, as it is carbonated, has harmful added acidic chemicals, and lots of sugar. The pH of soda varies by brand; Classic Coke, for instance, has a pH of 2.5! While this may seem trivial and your saliva may be able to balance some of the acidity, drinking bubbly water as a substitute for still or tap water may put you at greater risk for tooth decay. When your mouth is in an acidic state, dysbiosis can occur, which can lead to dental erosion and plaque formation. Watch out for certain juice, as well as wine (pH 3-4) and coffee. Drinking through a straw can help keep the acidic beverage off your teeth. A glass of plain water after coffee and cocktails is recommended to rinse out your mouth with a lower pH liquid and to counteract the dehydrating effects of alcohol and caffeine.
3. Grab some crunchy vegetables
While sticky foods can be harmful, naturally hard and crunchy vegetables are great for your mouth. Raw carrots, celery, cucumbers, broccoli, green beans, jicama; all the veggies found on crudite trays. They force you to spend time chewing, a process that gives your jaw muscles a workout, which helps promote healthy jaw and mouth structure. Contrary to what you may believe, your teeth and jaws are not in a fixed position, meaning they are constantly changing. Think about your old retainer— you know, the one that doesn’t fit anymore. It’s because your teeth sit in pockets that allow them to move. Keeping crunchy, hard foods in your diet helps to exercise your mouth properly, not to mention these crunchy veggies can help scrape off residue from previously chewed, softer foods.
4. Eat a wider variety of foods
When you eat balanced meals, you can ensure that your mouth is getting a range of nutrients, both micro and macro, in addition to a range of pH levels, acidic to alkaline. While plenty of acidic foods are healthy (eggs, most meats, mushrooms, mangoes, peaches, etc.), it is good to eat a wide variety of foods at each meal to ensure the acidity is balanced by alkaline foods (cucumbers, spinach, beets, celery, pomegranate, avocado etc.)
5. Minimize the snacking
Snacking throughout the day and night can alter the pH and affect the health of your mouth. When you eat, your mouth pH changes, which can throw it out of balance. Your saliva and drinking water (which promotes the production of saliva) helps to balance your mouth after meals. When you are constantly snacking, your mouth doesn’t get back to a normal pH, which can increase the likelihood of erosion and plaque formation. Eating late at night could be harmful as well. To read more about the timing of eating and oral health click here.
Your mouth is a vast ecosystem, connected to the rest of your body. It is clear that not only what we eat, but how we eat is important in oral health. These dietary components affect our healthy mouth environment, which is tightly linked to overall health. To read more about the mouth and body connection click here. Questions? Comment below!