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Dieting And Exercise For Teeth?

Everybody knows that watching your diet and exercising more is essential to staying healthy. But did you know that both can affect your dental health? What you eat and drink, and how often you exercise, can have a huge impact on the health of your teeth.

How Diet Impacts Your Dental Health

Since you eat and drink with your mouth, everything you eat and drink impacts your teeth and dental health.

  • Sugar: Everyone knows that sugar is bad for your teeth, but why? No, it’s not the sugar itself that rots your teeth. Tooth decay is caused by bacteria. When they spread over your teeth, they secrete an acid that eats away at your enamel, creating cavities. And when the bacteria is on your gums, the acid irritates the gum tissue and causes gingivitis, an early form of periodontal disease that can cause bad breath and lead to a serious infection called periodontitis. But what do the bacteria thrive on? You guessed it, sugar. That’s why dentists recommend you stay away from sugary drinks like soda. Not only is there no nutritional value in soft drinks, but the sugar in the liquid coats your teeth and gums. For bacteria, it’s like somebody ordered them a pizza. Suddenly, there’s a ton of food! While the occasional soda, juice, or candy is fine, it’s best for your teeth to avoid sugar when possible.
  • Carbohydrates: As many people might know, carbohydrates are really another form of sugar. Both sugar and carbs are high in calories, and both can make you gain weight if you are not careful. But because the harmful bacteria that cause cavities and periodontal disease love sugar so much, they love carbs as well. Eating some toast or a bowl of rice might sound good for you, and they’re certainly better than soft drinks, but you still have to worry about getting tiny particles of carbohydrates stuck in your mouth for bacteria to enjoy.
  • Sports drinks: Drinking some Gatorade right after hitting the gym might sound healthy, but most sports drinks contain a lot of carbohydrates. That’s because they were originally designed for football players, who can burn more than 500 calories per hour. They need calories fast, and that means carbs in liquid form. So when you drink a bottle of your favorite sports drink, you may be coating your mouth and teeth with carbs just like how soft drinks coat everything in sugar.
  • Ice: Some people like to chew ice. Despite ice being calorie-free, it’s so tough that chewing on it can damage the enamel on your teeth. While chewing on one ice cube probably won’t do much harm, repeatedly chewing ice will weaken the enamel and put you at higher risk of tooth decay.
  • Coffee, tea, and red wine: All three of these beverages can stain your teeth. While the enamel is very strong, there are microscopic grooves and pockets in it. Over time, as you keep drinking that morning cup of coffee, those tiny imperfections can collect stains. That’s how your teeth slowly but surely lose their natural white color and become dingy and dark.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables: Even though some fruits and veggies are high in sugar and carbs, they are also usually very crunchy. Some studies have shown chewing tough fruits and vegetables (especially when raw) can help your teeth by getting rid of some plaque that bacteria leaves behind.
  • Milk and dairy: Calcium found in dairy products can help your bones, and while teeth are not technically bones, calcium can help your teeth as well. Your body can store calcium in your enamel, making your teeth stronger and more resistant to damage and tooth decay. It won’t reverse damage caused by bacteria, but it will help reduce their impact.

How Exercise Impacts Your Dental Health

Getting regular exercise is obviously good for your body, but hitting the gym on a regular basis can help your teeth as well.

  • Lower risk of gum disease: There are some studies showing a connection between exercise and a lower risk of periodontal disease. Your gums can get irritated and inflamed by the same bacteria that causes cavities. While no one is quite sure why exercise lowers your risk for gum disease, one guess is that regular exercise lowers gum inflammation, making it harder for the bacteria to infect the gums.
  • Consistency effect: When you exercise consistently and stick with a regular routine, you create more order in your life. For many people, having a set schedule that you actually follow can make it easier to follow other, related schedules. That means taking care of your teeth (brushing, flossing, even anti-cavity rinses, and dental checkups) becomes much more likely.
  • Better dietary habits: When people start to see the positive effects of exercise, they sometimes reward themselves with “cheat days.” But the opposite is also true, that getting healthier can motivate you to make better choices of the food you eat. Once you realize how much work goes into burning off that candy bar, it becomes less of a reward and more of a punishment. That usually translates to eating less carbs and sugars, which is better for your teeth.

At our Paradise, CA family dental office, we have nutritional counseling to help make good choices about the foods you eat. But we can also help repair damage caused by food, such as fillings for cavities, dental crowns for weak teeth, and teeth whitening for stained teeth. Call us today at 530-413-7002 to schedule your next appointment.

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