Diet and Dental Disease

What you eat affects the health of your teeth. Diet plays an important role in developing healthy teeth and preventing dental disease, such as:

  • Tooth decay.

  • Gum (periodontal) disease.

  • Developmental defects of the enamel. This is when visible surfaces of the tooth do not form properly, leaving the tooth more prone to decay.

  • Dental erosion. This is when the teeth wear away.

Knowing which foods promote strong teeth and which foods to stay away from can help you prevent poor oral health. If your diet lacks proper nutrients, it may be difficult for the tissues in your mouth to prevent dental disease.

FOODS THAT PROMOTE DENTAL DISEASE

The following foods either contain acids or create acid in your mouth that increases the risk of tooth decay:

  • Sugary foods, such as candy and baked goods (cookies, cake).

  • Soft drinks (carbonated and non-carbonated) such as soda, sports drinks, and fruit juice.

  • Citrus fruits, such as oranges and lemons.

  • Berries.

  • Honey.

  • Herbal teas that contain berries and other fruits.

  • Wines and other alcoholic beverages.

  • Vinegar or vinegar containing foods, such as pickles.

  • Starchy snacks such as crackers, potato chips, French fries, and pasta.

Some of these foods have health benefits. Eat these foods in moderation. The more often you eat these foods, the more frequently you are exposing your teeth to the acid that causes dental diseases.

FOODS THAT REDUCE THE RISK OF DENTAL DISEASE

Certain foods help to keep the teeth strong and reduce the risk of tooth decay. These foods include:

  • Dairy products, such as cow's milk and cheese. Eating dairy with a meal or sugary snack reduces the risk of tooth decay.

  • Gums and foods that substitute sugar with sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol.

  • Fluoride containing foods, such as black tea. Fluoride is a natural mineral that protects the teeth from tooth decay. Your caregiver may recommend fluoride toothpaste or a fluoride supplement.

  • Breast milk.

DIETARY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR HEALTHY TEETH

  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet with fiber-rich fruits and vegetables and quality proteins (eggs, meat, poultry, and fish). A variety of foods each day in moderation is best.

  • Avoid frequent sugary snacks in between meals.

  • Avoid frequent sticky, chewy, sugary candies, such as gummy bears and other candies that stick to the teeth. Avoid sucking on candies for a long time.

  • Avoid drinks that contain added sugar. Even though they do not sit in the mouth for very long, they can promote tooth decay if consumed too frequently.

  • Avoid sugary foods and drinks late at night.

  • Avoid swishing or holding acidic or sugary drinks in your mouth. Using a straw limits contact with the teeth.

  • If you like frequent sugary treats, try eating a sugary dessert after a meal or with a dairy product, rather than eating it by itself.

  • Avoid starchy foods such as graham crackers that stick to your teeth.

  • Eat highly acidic and sugary foods in moderation, especially if you tend to develop tooth decay. Eat citrus fruits or drinks 2 times per day or less. Limit foods with vinegar and sports drinks to 1 time per week.

  • Try rinsing your mouth with water after a sugary or acidic meal or drink. Rinsing may help to reduce the acid buildup in the mouth.

  • Limit alcohol.

  • Read labels to determine the amount of sugar in foods.

PRACTICE GOOD DAILY ORAL HYGIENE

  • Have your teeth professionally cleaned at the dentist every 6 months.

  • Brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste.

  • Floss between your teeth daily.

  • Ask your caregiver if you need fluoride supplements or treatments.

  • Ask your caregiver if you should have sealants applied to some of your teeth.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Follow the guidelines included here to promote good oral health.

  • Follow all of your caregiver's instructions for managing your health condition(s).

  • See your caregiver for follow-up exams as directed.