Oral health is about more than just a beautiful smile, it can actually have a huge impact on your overall health! A healthy mouth allows you to speak, eat, and drink. Poor oral health has also been linked to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, respiratory illness, as well as preterm and low birth weight babies.
The first step to a healthy mouth is to practice good oral hygiene that includes regular brushing and flossing. Click here to read the Canadian Dental Association’s tips to ensure you are brushing and flossing effectively.
The second step to a healthy mouth is to ensure you are visiting your dentist regularly for cleaning and check-ups. Dentists and dental hygienists are experts at ensuring your teeth (and mouth) are clean and healthy!
On top of good oral hygiene and regular dental visits, we also wanted to provide you with some additional strategies to help keep your mouth healthy. Here are some of our top tips:
1. Limit sugary food and drinks.
Cavity-causing bacteria love to consume sugars and then release acidic compounds, which can lead to tooth decay. Limit sugary drinks such as juice, pop, and sugar-sweetened coffee and tea. If you are having a high-sugar drink, try to drink it in one sitting rather than sipping on it throughout the day. You can also use a reusable straw to avoid direct contact with your teeth! If you are having high-sugar foods such as sticky sweets, try to pair them with a meal and be sure to brush and floss your teeth well afterwards.
2. Avoid grazing throughout the day.
While regular meals and snacks are important for your overall health, try to avoid having bites and sips frequently throughout the day as this greatly increases the amount of time your teeth are in contact with potential cavity-causing sugar. Eating and drinking (anything but water) >6 times per day increases your risk of developing dental cavities! Instead, focus on having regular meals and snacks that honour your hunger cues and enjoy plain water between.
3. Stay hydrated.
Dry mouth can increase your risk for dental cavities and oral infections, as well as cause discomfort, pain, and difficulty chewing/swallowing. One of the simplest ways to prevent dry mouth is to ensure you are adequately hydrated. Enjoy plain water with meals and snacks, as well as throughout the day to help keep you hydrated. If you’re using bottled water, consider switching to tap water. Tap water is not only budget-friendly, but most developed countries fortify their tap water with fluoride! If you are still experiencing dry mouth that is concerning to you, speak with your dentist or dental hygienist.
4. Use fluoride-containing dental products.
Fluoride aids in the remineralization of your teeth to prevent dental cavities and infections. Fluoridated tap water, saltwater fish, and tea brewed with fluoridated water are some dietary sources, however the best strategy is to use fluoride-containing toothpaste and mouth rinse. You can look for the Canadian Dental Association seal when shopping for dental products!
5. Try using xylitol.
Xylitol is a naturally-sourced sugar alcohol that is considered equally as sweet as sucrose (table sugar) but with 33% less calories. Xylitol also acts as a prebiotic (a source of food for the beneficial bacteria living in our digestive tract) which can help with lowering blood glucose levels, cholesterol, and triglycerides as well as promoting gut health. Additionally, regular use of xylitol-containing products has been shown to help reduce the risk of dental cavities and actually promote remineralization of teeth! You can try using xylitol gum or mints after meals/snacks, or substituting xylitol for sugar in your baking. One word of caution, however, is to start with a small amount of xylitol and slowly increase as excessive consumption of xylitol can have a laxative effect.
6. Ensure you are getting adequate calcium and vitamin D.
Your teeth are made up of primarily calcium, just like your bones! Vitamin D helps your body absorb and utilize calcium for healthy bones and teeth. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to get enough vitamin D in your diet - click here to read more! Phosphorous is another important mineral that helps with the absorption and utilization of calcium.
Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese are good sources of calcium and phosphorous, as well as vitamin D. For those that don’t consume dairy products, choose other high sources of calcium and phosphorus such as: fortified milk alternatives, canned fish with the bones, almonds, legumes, and dark green leafy vegetables. Not sure if you’re getting enough? Book an appointment with us today for a full diet analysis!
7. Eat your fruits and veggies.
Fruits and vegetables are nutrient-dense foods that promote overall health and reduce the risk of disease, including oral diseases, infections, and cavities. Focus on consuming a wide variety of colours of fruits and vegetables to consume a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals to promote overall health, including oral health.
Crunchy fruit and vegetables such as apples, carrots, and celery can also help to clear plaque from teeth. However, be aware of citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges, as their acidity can wear away tooth enamel. Be sure to rinse your mouth with water and/or brush your teeth after consuming citrus fruit.
8. Choose whole grains more often than refined grains.
Whole grains (such as oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley, and multigrain bread) have more fibre, vitamins, and minerals than refined grains. They are important for overall health and prevention of chronic disease, and they can also supply much needed nutrients for dental health such as B vitamins, magnesium, and iron. Enjoy whole grains as part of a balanced meal followed by rinsing with water and/or brushing and flossing!
9. Manage your heartburn.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD, colloquially known as heartburn or acid reflux) that is not well-controlled can actually weaken your tooth enamel and increase risk of cavities and infections. If you experience heartburn regularly, speak with your physician and book an appointment with us to discuss dietary strategies for minimizing heartburn!
10. Avoid smoking or chewing tobacco.
Smoking and/or chewing tobacco products increases your risk of developing a variety of cancers (including oral cancer), gum disease, and cardiovascular disease. Need help quitting? Talk to your pharmacist about the BC Smoking Cessation Program.
We hope you’ve found these tips helpful for keeping your mouth healthy! If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us or discuss with your dental provider.