Most Nigerians know that a balanced, nutritious food is very essential to healthy living. They also know that eating patterns and foods choices play an important role in preventing tooth decay and gum disease too. That shows we are informed. Good. The question now is ´are we well- informed? Your body is a complex machine that need good food to survive. The mouth is one of the most important structures of the body which helps in digestive system. It is often believed that the way your mouth and teeth look determine a lot about you. People often say ‘You are what you eat’.
The foods you choose either good or bad, balanced or unbalanced, healthy or unhealthy and how often you eat them can affect your general health and the health of your teeth and gums, too. If your diet LACKS certain nutrients, it may be more difficult for tissues in your mouth to resist infection, if your nutrient is too RICH in certain food substances or other substances it may predispose you to some oral diseases
Tooth decay in every form is the single most common long term childhood disease, but the good news is that it is entirely preventable and treatable. Tooth decay happens when the sticky stuff on the teeth called plaque which contain some bacteria in the mouth come into contact with sugar in the mouth, causing acid to attack the teeth.
Severe gum disease from bad oral hygiene practices is a major cause of tooth loss in adults while cavities or holes from indiscriminate refined sugar consumption is the major cause of tooth loss in children . Many researchers believe that these diseases progress faster and is potentially more severe in people with poor nutrition and unchecked refined sugar consumption respectively.FOODS AND DRINKS WITH LOW POTENTIAL FOR DENTAL CARIES OR CAVITIES are as follows; BREAD (sandwiches, toast etc.), FIBROUS FOODS (raw vegetables), FRESH FRUITS (whole and not juices), PEANUTS (not for children under 5 years), SUGAR-FREE CHEWING GUM AND CONFECTIONERIES, WATER, SUGAR-FREE DRINKS, TEA AND COFFEE (unsweetened).
- SUGAR CONTAINING FOODS -Foods that contain refined sugars of any kind can contribute to tooth decay. For better control of the amount of sugar you eat, you can read the nutrition facts and ingredient labels on foods and beverages and choose options that are lowest in sugar. Common sources of sugar in Nigeria include soft drinks, candy, cookies and pastries. While these hard candies seem harmless, don’t eat too many because the constant exposure to sugar can be harmful to your teeth. Hard candies also put your teeth at risk because in addition to being full of sugar, they can also trigger a dental emergency such as a cracked/ broken or chipped tooth. Chew sugarless gum or look for substitutes like fruits and water
Thus if one can eliminate sucrose from in-between meal snacks, reduce sucrose from meal, reduce intake of sticky sugary food, increase intake of fibrous food, adjust/change sucrose sweetened medications etc., one can say that the diet is modified to achieving a good oral health. So in summary, eating healthy food with good oral hygiene practices and modifying your diet to avoid tooth decay will prevent infection that could cause tooth loss in both the adult and children respectively
- FREQUENT CITRUS INTAKE -The truth is that frequent exposures to acidic foods can erode enamel, making teeth more susceptible to decay over time. A squeeze of lemon or lime can turn a simple glass of water into a fun beverage, however it is not always the best choice for your mouth. Citric fruits and juices can also initiate mouth sores. Try as much as possible to make drinkable water your best option
- CHEWING ICECUBES – Many people think ice is good for their teeth. This is because it is water, and does not contain sugar or other additives. It is true that it is water but don’t you know that chewing on hard substances can leave your teeth vulnerable as it can damage the outermost part of the teeth and lead to a dental emergency. Stop this habit and take water in its liquid form
- COFFEE -Coffee and tea are healthy beverage choices in their natural forms. Unfortunately too many people can’t resist adding sugar to their drinks. Caffeinated coffee and tea can also dry out your mouth if consume too frequently. Frequent drinks of coffee and tea may also stain your teeth and cause generalised black and brown discolouration over time. If you do consume tea regularly, make sure to drink plenty of water and try to keep the add-ons to a minimum.
- STICKY FOODS -When it comes to picking healthy snacks, many people put dried fruit at the top of the list. But many dried fruits are sticky and get adhered to the teeth surfaces especially the back teeth. They cause damage to your teeth since they tend to stay longer on your than other types of food. If you find yourself eating dried fruits or chocolates and cakes, make sure to rinse with water after and most importantly to brush and floss carefully.
- CRUNCHY FOODS -Who doesn’t love the nice, satisfying crunch of a potato chip? Unfortunately potato chips are filled with starch, which tends to get trapped and adhere firmly to your teeth especially the molars. If you choose to indulge in snacks like these, take extra care when you floss that day to remove all the food particles that can lead to plaque build-up especially in between the teeth and on the surfaces of back teeth.
- SODA DRINKS -when you eat sugary foods or sip sugary drinks for long periods of time, plaque bacteria use that sugar to produce acids that attack your enamel-the hard surface of your tooth. Most carbonated soft drinks, including diet soda, are acidic and therefore, have detrimental effects to your teeth if you don’t take precautionary measures like brushing the teeth immediately after consumption. Caffeinated beverages like colas can also dry out your mouth. If you do consume soft drinks, try to drink alongside a cup of water and never take them at bedtimes.
- ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION -Alcohol causes dehydration and dry mouth. People who drink excessively may experience reduction in saliva flow over time, which can predispose the teeth to decay and other dental diseases such as gum disease. Heavy alcohol use also increases your risk for mouth cancer and this also work in synergy among tobacco smokers to cause oral diseases
- YOGURT -Like cheese, yogurt is high in calcium and protein, which makes it a good pick for the strength and health of your teeth. The probiotics (beneficial bacteria), found in yogurt also benefit your gums because the good bacteria in the yogurt will eventually crowd out bacteria that cause cavities/ holes. It is advisable that if you wish to add more yogurt to your diet, choose a plain variety with no added sugar.
- LEAFY GREENS Leafy greens typically find their way onto any healthy foods list. They’re low in calories but full of vitamins and minerals. Leafy greens such as spinach also promote oral health. They’re high in calcium, which builds your teeth’s enamel. Other things they contain are folic acid, a type of B vitamin that has numerous health benefits, including the recent health benefit of possibly treating gum disease in pregnant women. You can also try adding some greens to your smoothie
- APPLES – though we recommend steering clear of most sweet foods, fruits, such as apples are exceptions. Though they are sweet, they’re also high in fibre and water. You can’t compare eating apple to brushing your teeth with fluoride containing toothpaste, but it can refresh you until you have a chance to brush.
- CARROTS- Like apples, carrots are crunchy and full of fibre. Eating a handful of raw carrots at the end of the meal increases saliva production in your mouth, which reduces your risk of having holes. Along with being high in fibre, carrots are a great source of vitamin A.
- WATER– Fluoridated water, is the best beverage for maintaining good oral health. That’s because fluoride helps to make teeth more resistant to the acid attacks that can cause cavities. Though Nigeria doesn’t have access to community fluoridated water. So drinking water from your own kitchen sink can’t help prevent dental problem IF we have fluoridated water but for now we rely on fluoride from dental products such as toothpaste and mouthwashes and diets as our source of fluoride as a nation
- MILK AND OTHER DAIRY PRODUCTS – Cheese and yogurt contain protein and are full of calcium but are low in sugar, which is a good thing for your dental health. Thus, they can help to strengthen your teeth.
- PHOSPHORUS-RICH FOODS – most of them contain valuable protein and help to strengthen the teeth and bones. These foods also help protect and rebuild your tooth enamel. Fruits, such as apple
- NUTS– Nuts contain protein and minerals but low in carbohydrates, so they don’t pose any health challenge to the teeth when consumed. Tooth decay is caused by acid-producing bacteria (not worm) that are activated by refined sugar. As a substitute to sweets and sugars , it is observed that chewing nuts stimulates saliva production, which can reduce your risk for tooth decay as the saliva disrupt the acid production tendency between the bacteria and the sugars.
- NO SMOKING! NO SMOKING! NO SMOKING!
For healthy living and for healthy mouth, think and consider the above. What affects your dental health is not only what you eat and drink but also when you eat. Eat good foods and limit in-between-meal snacks. If you are on a special diet, keep your physician’s advice in mind when choosing foods.
Limit the quantity of snacks you eat and if you must snack, choose fruit or vegetables and plain water. Foods that are eaten as part of a meal cause less harm to teeth because more saliva is released during that period as compared to those taken in-between meal throughout the day. Saliva performs cleansing function in the mouth and lessens the effects of acids which dissolves the teeth
For good dental health, always remember to brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride containing toothpaste, floss daily and visit your dentist regularly. Upon regular dental visits and dental care, the dental professionals can help you prevent dental problems and also restore those that occur at early stages, and while they are easier cheaper to treat
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