Oral Health

The Dental Diet – Nutrition for Child’s Dental Health

Contrary to the belief, a child develops teeth in his mother’s womb. Children’s primary teeth or deciduous teeth begin forming at about the sixth week of pregnancy and start mineralizing — building the bonelike inner tooth layer (called dentin) and the super-hard enamel layer that covers it — around the third or fourth month of pregnancy.

Teeth consist of the 3 main parts- the hardest substance in the body, that is the enamel. Enamel consists of 95% of Minerals, 4% protein, and 1% water, on Maturation. The high mineral content makes it the hardest part of our body, but it is susceptible to decay if proper care is not taken. Enamel protects the dentin and pulp of the tooth which contains nerves and blood vessels.

Dental decay can occur in the absence of good oral can cause enamel to decay, causing sensitivity and continuation of decay to dentin and pulp which can be very painful and cause infections like dental abscesses.

So to protect our inner dental structures we must maintain good oral hygiene.

  • Brushing twice a day,
  • rinsing after each meal, flossing,
  • visiting the dentists regularly

They all go a long way to protect the teeth, but one of the most important culprits of decay of enamel is our food habit. Food plays an important role in conserving our tooth structure.

A shortage of vitamins and minerals in the phase before conception influences the development of the future embryo, influencing dental organogenesis, the growth of the maxilla, and skull/facial development.

Insufficient amount of proteins, carbohydrate, lipid, and minerals such as Calcium and phosphorous can lead to developmental deformities in dentition like –

  • Inflammatory and degenerative pathologies
  • Altered development of the maxilla
  • Hyposalivation- less saliva
  • Hypoplasia of the enamel
  • Periodontal disease- gum diseases
  • Susceptibility to dental decay

So, in general, diet influences the health of the oral cavity, conditioning the onset of caries, the development of the enamel, the onset of dental erosion, the state of periodontal health, and of the oral mucous in general.

Nutrition needed for teeth

One of the biggest and commonest dangers to dentition is dental caries. Caries normally known as decay is dissolution and demineralization of the organic part and inorganic part of the tooth. Apart from caries, Dental erosion caused by acidic food contributes to the sensitivity and pain in teeth.

Diet can be a good ally in the prevention of caries. The minerals essential for the wellbeing of teeth are:

Calcium

It is one of the most important minerals for healthy teeth because it strengthens your enamel. Our teeth and supporting jawbones are largely made up of calcium so it is essential for normal development and to keep them strong. Calcium plays a role in increasing the density of the alveolar bone that supports teeth. It can be found in milk, yogurt and cheese, fortified soy drinks and tofu, canned salmon, almonds, and dark green leafy vegetables.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a big role in keeping your teeth healthy. This micronutrient tells your intestines to absorb the calcium you’ve eaten and move it into your bloodstream. Some dairy products and cereal are fortified with vitamin D, but you can also get it naturally from the sun.

Phosphorus

Studies have shown that in order for calcium to fully absorb into the body and promote notable bone health, it needs to be paired with phosphorus. It’s necessary for the maintenance and repair of all the body’s tissues. Phosphorus can be found in protein-rich foods like meat, poultry, fish, and eggs.

Vitamin C

The intake of vitamin C is fundamental for maintenance and for the activation of reparative mechanisms thanks to its antioxidant properties in the gums which contribute to healthy teeth. Only healthy gums can house healthy teeth. Seek out foods high in vitamin C, in citrus food such as oranges or kale, Indian gooseberry amla.

Vitamins A, E, C, and Beta Carotene

These vitamins have antioxidant properties which

• Neutralize metabolic products.
• Interfere with the activation of procarcinogens.
• Inhibit chromosomal aberration.
• Potentially inhibit the growth of malignant lesions (leukoplakia).

Vitamin A helps form and maintain tissues like teeth and mucus membranes. Sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, and carrots are all vitamin A sources.

Vitamin K

This vitamin can help strengthen teeth due to its important role as a calcium-binder. It can also assist with both bone growth and bone density. Broccoli or Brussels sprouts contain vitamin K.

Fluoride

Fluoride is usually used by dentists and in most toothpaste as a treatment to fight against tooth and gum decay. It promotes the remineralization of tooth enamel. Black tea, seafood, and tap water in certain countries contain Fluoride.

Zinc

Zinc is another trace mineral, and can naturally be found in saliva. It has been proven to fight against the growth of bacteria and plaque, which can decay teeth and gum tissues, causing cavities and gum disease. It can be found in cashews, red meat, pumpkin seeds, squash, oysters, mushrooms, dark chocolate, and legumes.

Protein

We need protein for the development of Tooth structure, mucosal/connective tissue, and immune function.

Superfoods for your teeth

Cheese

Eating cheese raises the pH in the subjects’ mouths and lowered their risk of tooth decay. It’s thought that the chewing required to eat cheese increases saliva in the mouth. Cheese also contains calcium and protein, nutrients that strengthen tooth enamel. The cheddar, Monterey Jack, Swiss, and other aged varieties of cheeses help to trigger the flow of saliva, which helps wash food particles away from teeth.

Pick whole food over processed ones.

Water

Water is needed for survival, and better-fluoridated water strengthens the food while quenching your thirst. Drinking juice, soda, or sports drinks may help you wash down your dinner, but they can leave unwanted sugar behind on your teeth. The cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth survive on those sugar and produce acid that wears away enamel. Water, however, cleans your mouth with every sip. It washes away leftover food and residue and even the acid they produce.

It’s Calorie-Free!

Fruits and Green leafy Vegetables

Fruits and veggies are an important part of any balanced diet, and they are also good for your teeth. Since they are high in water and fiber, they help to balance the sugars they contain and help to clean your teeth. Chewing also helps to stimulate saliva production, which washes harmful acids and food particles away from your teeth.

They also contain folic acid, a type of B vitamin that has numerous health benefits, including possibly keeping gum disease in pregnant women at bay.

Fruits, such as apples and pears, might be sweet, but they’re also high in fiber and water. The fibrous texture of the fruit also stimulates the gums.

Adding raw carrots to the diet increases saliva production in your mouth, which reduces your risk of cavities. Along with being high in fiber, carrots are a great source of vitamin A.

Cranberries are rich in polyphenols (just like tea) and provide antioxidant benefits. Fresh cranberries are especially effective at disrupting the process of plaque formation.

Contrary to belief raisin is good for teeth thanks to the Phytochemicals in raisins that may benefit oral health by fighting bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease.

Strawberries are packed with Vitamin C, antioxidants, and also malic acid, which could even naturally whiten your teeth. Be sure your diet includes fresh fruits and veggies rich in vitamin C, such as apples, pears, strawberries, pineapples, tomatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, and cucumbers.

Probiotics

Probiotics may help to decrease gingivitis and plaque; bacteria in fermented foods might suppress the growth of pathogens in the oral cavity. Probiotic yogurt provides calcium along with probiotics also kimchi are said to contain probiotics as well.

Green tea/ Black tea

Polyphenols have been known to reduce bacteria and toxic products of bacteria in the mouth. Tea also tends to be rich in fluoride. A team from the University of Illinois, College of Dentistry found that compounds in black tea were capable of killing or suppressing the growth of cavity-causing bacteria like Lactobacillus and Streptococcus mutants in plaque, thus drinking tea may aid in preventing gum disease and prohibit cavities from developing.
By interfering with the body’s inflammatory response to periodontal bacteria, green tea may actually help promote periodontal health and ward off further disease.

If you do drink tea, experts suggest avoiding additives such as milk, lemon, or sugar because they combine with tea’s natural flavonoids and decrease the benefits. Also, be wary of staining that may occur in the teeth.

Tea is a better alternative to soft drinks.

Nuts

These are packed with tons of important elements like calcium and phosphorus. Especially beneficial are almonds, Brazil nuts, and cashews, which help to fight bacteria that lead to tooth decay. For instance, peanuts are a great source of calcium and vitamin D, and almonds offer good amounts of calcium, which is beneficial to teeth and gums.

Cashews are known to stimulate saliva and walnuts contain everything from fiber, folic acid, iron, thiamine, magnesium, iron, niacin, vitamin E, vitamin B6, potassium, and zinc. But be wary of the hard nuts. Broken or cracked teeth can be caused due to hard-shelled nuts such as walnuts, butternuts, hickory nuts, pecans, pine nuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nut.

Don’t go too nuts!!

Onion and Garlic

The allicin that is contained in garlic has strong antimicrobial properties, which can help fight tooth decay and especially periodontal disease. When eaten raw, onions have powerful antibacterial properties especially against some of the bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease. While these food might cause bad breath the benefits are too hard to ignore.

Meal tips

  • Food sequencing, or the order in which you consume food and beverages, is important and may help to prevent tooth decay. Try eating acid-neutralizing foods after a sweet meal or dessert will prevent prolonged acid attacks to your teeth and therefore help prevent cavities. The best examples are milk, unsweetened tea, or cheese.
  • One way to protect your teeth is by eating raw foods at the end of meals. Such foods help clean teeth and massage gums and generate more saliva to wash away extra food particles left after a meal.
  • Sticky foods can damage your teeth since they tend to stay on the teeth longer than other types of food. If you find yourself eating dried fruits or trail mix often, make sure to rinse with water after and to brush and floss carefully.
    Happy Snacking!

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3272860/
  2. https://dentistry.uic.edu/patients/healthy-foods
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3459493/

Hi, I'm Dr. Swati, a dentist by profession, closeted writer by passion. Mother to a 4-year-old daughter, I believe a raising a child is an arduous yet rewarding task, and one must avail themselves all the aide you get.

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