Diets and Dentists

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No this isn’t a blog about some crazy new fad diet designed by dentists. Instead, it’s a brief discussion about the role that dieting might play in keeping your smile either “dentist ready” or “ready for the dentist.” What’s the difference? That’s what we’ll explore today in this blog concerning what to think about when you’re thinking about going on a diet!

As you may recall we have shared many times over these past few years about the important links between oral health and your overall health. Cavities, gum disease and even yellowing teeth can sometimes be traced back to specific health disorders (think cancer or gastrointestinal disease) and other times, rather than “traced back to” instead they can potentially cause ill health, even certain conditions like heart disease. That’s why it’s so important to think about everything you eat, everything you drink and why that might be important in terms of your dental health and why diets, depending on the type, might in fact be harmful to your teeth.

Healthy teeth, a healthy mouth and gums are all a direct result of the care and attention we give to them and that includes what we eat and drink. Just as too much coffee, or red wine might stain teeth, so too might depriving our teeth, mouth and gums of needed nutrients be detrimental. Obviously, we are not talking to the folks who are undertaking a healthy eating plan made in conjunction with their family physician, a nutritionist or other medical professional because we know such plans will be carefully considered and both the calories and content tailored to your specific body type and weight loss expectations. A measured approach to any weight loss plan, that assumes a slow and steady program of modified behaviour, exercise and careful eating is never a bad idea. Instead, we’re talking to the people in a hurry; the folks who want to lose a quick ten or twenty pounds before a trip, drop a dress size before a family wedding or “jump start” their weight loss with a dramatic drop on the scale. In each of these types of scenarios there really is no healthy way to achieve such a loss and it’s your teeth that might take a direct hit. Here’s why:

  • Fast weight loss almost always means a drastic cut in food intake. It may also mean inadequate consumption of the kinds of fruits and vegetables from which our entire body, including our teeth, derive nutrients. You may think that’s ok for a few days or even weeks but damage to our teeth is much harder to notice in the bathroom mirror and by the time you see a dentist it could be too late. Your teeth might have shift from dentist ready – healthy and in need of a clean, to “ready for the dentist,” in poor shape and in desperate need of repair – or worse!
  • Fast weight loss almost always means drinking lots of fluids. Now of course, you’ll immediately ask what’s wrong with that? Especially water – water is always good isn’t it? Drinking fluoridated water can actually be good for your teeth but too much bottled water doesn’t always offer the same benefit and may even reduce the calcium and phosphorous levels in tooth enamel. Sparkling water, if you are using it as a non-caloric way to add some zest to your water intake can be harmful to teeth as it leads to demineralization. Any excessive reliance on juice or carbonated, sugar free beverages is also hard on the teeth.
  • Fast weight loss almost always also relies on the latest “fad” to achieve quick, noticeable results. These might look like a cleanse, fasting or consuming a steady diet of only a very few select foods, or perhaps only drinking protein shakes or similar in place of food. Once again, potential damage to your teeth can arise from either a lack of adequate nutrition or by enjoying too much of a good thing. For example, a juice cleanse that promises fast weight loss results will mean a high intake of acids and sugars, neither of which are good for your teeth. They can damage the enamel and lead to excessive bacterial growth. Additionally, such fad diets (anyone remember the cabbage soup diet from the 90’s?) will automatically result in less intake of important nutrients like vitamin B12, calcium and Vitamins D and C both of which are excellent for teeth and gum health.

For many folks, weight loss goals might also result in other behaviours like excessive gum chewing. While this alone is not necessarily a concern, like so many other things in life, taken together with a lack of essential vitamins and nutrients and chewing gum in excess (especially if it’s not sugarless) can be harmful to your teeth. The bottom line is that depending on how seriously you deplete your body of needed nutrients , and for how long, you might even experience weakening in the jawbone and loss of tooth enamel. Therefore, diet most definitely plays a role in good oral health and jumping on the latest fad diet might put your oral health at risk. If you are thinking about losing a bit of weight in order to feel better and to get healthy – that’s a good thing and we’d certainly never discourage you. If however, you want to lose weight quickly and put your physical and oral health at risk, for the sake of both – don’t do it! Consult with a medical professional before you undertake any serious weight loss program. That’s all for this week but as we always do, we’ll leave you with this friendly reminder; ”don’t forget to be a BFF with your mouth and Brush that SMILE!”

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