Hygienist Advice: How nutrition influences our oral health

Hygienist Advice: How nutrition influences our oral health

Hygienist Advice: How nutrition influences our oral health

Teeth are critical in food acquisition and processing. When looking at the mouth, we are looking at the first step to the digestive system. The following points illustrate the  influence our nutrition has on the health of our mouth…

1. Keep chewing

The jaw is a muscular system influenced by excerise. Research shows that underdeveloped dental arches seem to appear more in urban compared to rural populations. Westernised processed food decrease chewing forces required for jawbone development. Poor jaw development during childhood can manifest into crowded teeth and is also associated with health issues such as sleep apnoea, ADHD, sleep disturbances, sinus/ear/throat infections and reduced airway integrity.

2. Care for the gut

A leaky gut can disturb the immune system, consequently increasing body’s susceptibility to infections and inflammation. Periodontal “gum” disease in particular is influenced by your immune system and its ability to fight the bacterial biofilm living in your mouth. In retrospect, those with gum disease can cause bacterial imbalances in the body as bacteria is transferred to the gut via diseased gums. Food such as bone broth and sauerkraut is recommended for maintaining a healthy gut.

3. Say NO to sugar

Bacterial biofilm living in the mouth recognises high sugar concentrations. When an influx of sugar is experienced in the mouth, the bacteria produces lactic acid. An acidic environment is the perfect condition for the development of dental caries. For those with high caries risk, ensuring your calcium levels are adequate is important as calcium plays a vital role in “remineralising” enamel that has been “demineralised” by acid.

Tip: “low fat” is a secret code for “sugar”. Stay away!

4. Vitamin D

The primary role of Vitamin D in the body is absorption of calcium, however, gut microbes, the immune system, the nervous system and genes also require vitamin D for normal functioning. Without adequate vitamin D, the body can only absorb 10% to 15% of the calcium available in food. Both tooth decay and gum disease are linked to vitamin D deficiency as calcium levels are not regulated i.e. in teeth and in the jaw bone. Oily fish, eggs, mushrooms or beef liver are best dietary sources of vitamin D. However getting enough (at a safe level) of sun seems to be the purest way for Vitamin D to enter the body. It is stored in the liver and fat tissue. An average person can store vitamin D 20000IU (one day in the sun) for a few months.

5. Vitamin K group

Vitamin K1 is found in green vegetables. K1 goes directly to your liver and helps you maintain a healthy blood clotting system. It also keeps your own blood vessels from calcifying, and also helps your bones retain calcium and develop the right crystalline structure. This is important for the bone that supports our teeth.

Vitamin K2 activates proteins that delivers calcium to bones, teeth and prevents deposition in arteries, kidneys and prostate. K2 activates osteocalcin which is a regulating protein in dental health and bone metabolism. K2 deficiency has a link to increased calculus build up (increase in calcium in the saliva). Vitamin D creates demand for K2. If you have higher vitamin D then need to calculate for more vitamin K2 as well. Grass fed dairy and meat much more higher in K2 than grain-fed.

6. Magnesium

Magnesium helps to relax muscles which is very important for those with bruxism (grinding/clenching) habits influenced by tense muscles. Magnesium also supports the cellular pumps that keep most calcium out of our soft tissue cells and make it available for the extracellular matrix of bones and teeth.

This article was written by SHDC Hygienist and Therapist Kristel van Eijk.