In our last blog we talked about being “on guard” for your teeth, mouth and gums, meaning not only wearing a mouthguard if you play sports, but also ensuring you are proactive about preventative maintenance and oral health care. At that time, we briefly mentioned that managing diet and stress were also important tools in the fight against cavities or gum disease and that’s what we’re exploring in more detail here – the role of diet, stress, impacts on your smile AND on you.
When it comes to diet of course you might expect a dental office to talk about sugar and it’s true, we would be remiss if we did not highlight the importance of avoiding sugar – especially white refined sugar. In liquid or solid, sugar can, and does, play a role in potential tooth decay so whether you enjoy a soda now and then or dessert after dinner, rinsing and brushing your teeth after you have done so is especially important. Drinking excessive amounts of pop or even sugary fruit juices is not a good idea – and not just for your teeth either! They add virtually nothing to your daily intake of vitamins and minerals and have high potential for permanent enamel damage and unintentional weight gain.
Hidden sources of sugars/refined sugars
Perhaps you’re thinking, “Phew, I’m ok – I never drink pop.” That’s a good thing, but if you drink a glass of wine with your dinner every night know that this too contains sugar and can have a harmful impact on your teeth. If it’s red wine – it may even cause staining and other issues. Same with tea or coffee, unless you are drinking it black. Drink water and plenty of it!
Green leafy veggies, salads and fruits
If you think you are eating healthy, consuming plenty of fruits and veggies – you are! Certainly if you are mostly eating products from the “outer rim” of your grocery store, the things you find in produce, the meat section, dairy and yes even some whole grains from the bakery department, you are off to a good start in terms of managing your diet well. Eating healthy is also going to help you cope with stress because your body is receiving the nourishment it needs to stay strong. A strong, healthy body has better potential to ward off viruses and from the perspective of your mouth – helps to ensure your teeth are healthy too. Leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, and even bok choy (as examples) are full of calcium, Vitamin C and Vitamin A and look to hard cheese as another opportunity to get calcium in your diet. Your teeth will thank you.
Fruits are full of sugar. That’s not to say you can’t eat them because obviously they are full of lots of good things too! Plus, the sugars are natural, not refined. Acidic fruits are obviously potentially more harmful but something like an apple is always a good thing to enjoy. In fact, apples can even help to “clean” your teeth because they increase the amount of saliva in your mouth naturally and it’s a bit like washing away citric acids left behind. Strawberries are good for your teeth, mouth and gums because they are high in vitamin C – which promotes collagen production and collagen – well, that’s good for the gums! Finally, kiwi is a great fruit for calcium content and is another “acid neutralizer” helping to reduce the risk of acids wearing away at your enamel.
By now we are all likely quite familiar with the idea that stress will have a physical (as well as mental) impact. Stress can make us lose or gain weight, lead to headaches or gastro-intestinal problems and cause all manner of mental anguish. But, did you realize it can also impact your teeth? Often stress leads to poor diet decisions and we’ve already outlined those consequences above but it can also cause us to literally damage our teeth unintentionally! How? Bruxism. We’ve talked about this before – bruxism is grinding your teeth, wearing them down and potentially also causing jaw and neck pain due to the tension and chronic grinding action. It may even lead to headaches and poor sleep patterns. Before you know it, you’re facing a vicious circle of grinding, clenched jaw, headache, and then rely on poor coping habits like having a drink at night or ordering out for pizza because you are too tired and stressed to cook. In other words, everything really is interrelated and the negative impact of stress and diet on your smile AND you is undeniable.
Start small when you are thinking of big changes. Consider a daily meditation mantra that’s only five minutes long. Have just one cup of coffee in the morning but get up a few extra minutes early so you can enjoy it hot, while planning your day. Rely on coping tools as simple as creating a grocery list based around a meal plan for the week. You know you’ll have the ingredients, you plan the meals to accommodate your schedule and then you’re not so stressed thinking about what to cook for dinner every night. We know it’s a challenge but make time for yourself and for exercise – even if that’s just walking the dog or some light yoga stretching. Incremental steps towards better diet and health management will in turn, positively impact the health of your teeth, mouth and gums – giving you more reasons to smile! You CAN do it and we’re here to help with the maintenance part of your oral health care. Visit the team at Brinkley Dental, the family friendly dentist! Now, as always we’ll leave you with this final thought: “don’t forget to be a BFF with your mouth and brush that smile!”