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October is Nutrition and Dental Health

Submitted by Marilyn Gordon Ed.D. RDN CSSD LDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

October is National Dental Hygiene Month. Our food choices and nutritional status are directly related to oral infectious diseases such as dental caries and periodontal disease. Dietaryp factors associated with increased risk of dental caries are sugar sweetened foods and sweet beverages, sticky foods such as raisins and hard candies, sugary and starchy snacks such as cookies and cakes, and lastly simple sugars such as sucrose and honey.

Foods that will decrease risk of dental caries are fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains without added sugars, high-quality protein foods such as beans, legumes, eggs, cheese, fish, and meats. You can even chew sugarless gum after a meal or snack to decrease your risk.

Nutrient deficits can be seen in the oral cavity. The lips might be red and swollen or the tongue excessively red and fissured or extremely pale and smooth suggesting B-Vitamin and/or iron deficits. Gums may bleed easily during the brushing of the teeth or be abnormally red and spongy suggesting inadequate Vitamin C intake.

Many times the dentist or dental hygienist are the first to spot these irregularities and begin to ask the client about their diet. Tooth and gum problems that persist lead to loss of teeth which then goes further to impair the biting and chewing of food. This narrows food choices over time and leads to additional nutrient deficiencies.

Remember, good nutritional status begins in the mouth and is reflected by the health of the teeth, tongue, gums, and entire oral cavity. The theme of National Dental Hygiene Month is to: brush twice a day, floss once a day, rinse with mouthwash, and chew sugar-free gum. Your food choices matter; strive to increase fresh fruits and vegetables, minimally processed whole grains, and varied high quality protein sources. These preventive measures will keep you smiling for years to come.