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Food and Oral Health

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Nutritional status and oral health influence each other. Find out how and also learn about the three types of foods that do the best and worst for your teeth.

Food plays a key role in promoting oral health. But an incorrect or insufficient oral health can also be reflected in a worse nutritional status, by directly conditioning the eating process: either by lack of dental parts or pain, or by reduced saliva production or change in taste. All these factors result in reduced food intake, causing nutritional deficits.

An unbalanced or insufficient diet is considered a risk factor for periodontal disease. In addition to promoting and/or preventing this type of problem, nutrition also interferes with the tooth development process, gum and mucosa integrity, and jaw bone strength.

Cavities and nutrition:
Dental caries is the most common infectious disease of the oral cavity. This condition is caused by bacteria present in the oral cavity, which produce acidic substances, leading to gradual demineralization of the tooth. Thus, the composition of the foods that make up the daily diet directly influences the appearance of caries, since they will condition the pH of the oral cavity and, consequently, the microbial activity.

In addition, individuals with eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, have a higher probability of developing caries and dental erosion, due to the type of food ingested associated or not with compensatory behaviors, such as vomiting, abusive use of laxatives or diuretics.
Fermentable sugars:
Fermentable sugars are metabolized by bacteria present in the oral cavity and lead to the formation of acidic substances, which lower the salivary pH, promoting tooth demineralization. This process will continue until saliva raises the oral pH.

Thus, we can conclude that an alkaline pH has a protective effect against the formation of dental caries, while an acidic pH increases the susceptibility of the tooth to decay.
Cariogenic, cariostatic and anticariogenic foods:
Foods can be divided into three groups: cariogenic, cariostatic and anticariogenic.

1. Cariogens
Cariogenic foods have a higher content of fermentable sugars, stimulating the process of developing dental caries. Included in this group are fruit juices, soft and sugary drinks, desserts, pastries, cookies and all forms of sugar such as honey, brown sugar or syrups.

2. Cariostats
Foods that do not contribute to the process of tooth decay formation are called cariostatic foods. These foods are not metabolized by bacteria, so they do not cause changes in the oral pH. Foods such as eggs, meat, fish, vegetables and fats are included in this group of foods.

3. Anticariogenic
Finally, anticariogenic foods show a protective effect when eaten after cariogenic ones, as they increase the oral pH. This group of foods includes dairy products such as cheese, milk and non-sugary yogurts. In addition, these foods have a high calcium content, which will favor tooth mineralization.

10 useful tips for preventing tooth decay:

1. maintaining good oral hygiene is key;
2. When unable to brush your teeth, rinse your mouth after meals;
3. Combine cariogenic foods with anticariogenic foods;
4. Include vegetables and legumes in the diet daily, since they are rich in water, fiber, vitamins and minerals;
5. Eat dairy products, such as cheese, milk and yogurts with no added sugars
6. 6. Eat fresh fruit, preferably with the peel;
7. 7. Prefer whole grain cereals for their higher fiber content to the detriment of foods with refined flours
8. 8. Limit the intake of foods with a high sugar content, such as cakes, cookies and sugary breakfast cereals;
9. Restrict the intake of juices and soft drinks to festive occasions;
10. Promote water intake throughout the day.

Source: https://www.lusiadas.pt/blog/prevencao-estilo-vida/nutricao-dieta/alimentacao-saude-oral

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