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How Your Diet Impacts Oral Health 

We’ve all heard it before: you are what you eat. Apparently, not enough of us are eating food for healthy teeth and gums, though. About 13.2% of children have untreated tooth decay. 

Another 25.9% of adults ages 20 to 44 and 25.3% ages 45 to 64 also have decay. As a result, 13.2% of adults ages 65 and up have complete tooth loss. 

Instead of developing tooth decay and oral diseases, prioritize your oral health. Read on to discover the connection between nutrition and dental health today. 

Nutrition and Dental Health 

Your diet and nutrition both significantly influence your oral health. A poor diet can cause the progression of oral diseases, including: 

  • Tooth decay 
  • Periodontal disease 
  • Teeth enamel erosion 

Nutrition is categorized into macronutrients (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Diet refers to the foods you’re consuming.  

A poor diet (lacking nutrients) can have a bidirectional effect on your oral health. As you develop oral diseases, your ability to eat will decline. 

Following a healthy, nutritious diet can help you maintain a healthy mouth and functional teeth. This supports eating, speaking, and breathing. Your teeth and gums rely on nutrients to remain healthy. 

Your food choices and eating habits can prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Otherwise, you may start noticing changes to your smile and overall health.  

Consequences of a Poor Diet on Your Oral Health 

Dental Caries 

The foods you eat and beverages you drink can trigger the progression of tooth decay. This depends on: 

  • The form of food (solid, sticky, liquid) 
  • How often you eat 
  • The food’s nutritional makeup 
  • The combination of foods you eat 
  • What order you eat them in 
  • Medical conditions you have 

Dental caries (cavities) are the most common disease worldwide. Cavities are holes that form in a tooth. They start small but grow larger if you fail to seek treatment. 

Cavities develop as plaque (a tacky, clear substance) develops around your teeth. Plaque is a combination of saliva, bacteria, acid, and food particles.  

After you eat or drink, the bacteria in your mouth converts sugar into acid. The acid can erode your protective teeth enamel. As the enamel weakens, your risk of tooth decay increases.  

Everyone is at risk of tooth decay. However, your risk can increase if you consume too many acidic or sugary beverages and foods, including: 

  • Candy 
  • Sweets (cookies, cakes, muffins) 
  • Snack foods (chips) 
  • Sugary beverages (soda, juice, sweetened coffee) 
  • Acidic foods (citrus fruits, tomatoes) 

These offer no nutritional value. Their sugars can adhere to your teeth and cause tooth decay. 

Neglecting your oral hygiene can further increase your risk. Make sure to brush and floss daily to remove plaque from your teeth.  

Oral Diseases 

Oral diseases affect nearly 3.5 billion people. This is partially due to the availability and affordability of food with high sugar content.  

Periodontal (gum) disease affects the tissues that surround your teeth and provide them support. Without treatment, your gums can pull away from your teeth and bones. Your teeth could become loose or fall out. 

About 19% of the global adult population (1 billion people) have periodontal diseases. Symptoms include: 

  • Foul-smelling breath 
  • Gums that are red, swollen, or tender 
  • Pain when chewing 
  • Sensitive teeth 
  • Gums that pull away from the teeth 
  • Gums that bleed when you brush or floss 
  • Partial dentures no longer fitting 
  • Pus between the gums and teeth 
  • Malocclusion 
  • Loose teeth 

Gingivitis is a bacterial infection that occurs due to plaque overgrowth. Remember, eating sugary foods can cause plaque. Brushing and flossing daily can keep plaque from hardening into tartar.  

Once plaque hardens, it becomes resistant to removal by a regular toothbrush. However, scheduling a routine cleaning with your trusted dentist at McIlwain Dentistry ensures thorough plaque removal. Otherwise, the plaque will release acid and extend below your gum line. Your risk of gingivitis will increase. 

Periodontal disease could increase your risk for lung disease, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. Schedule routine appointments with your dentist. They can assess your gums to ensure you begin immediate treatment.  

Teeth Enamel Erosion 

Consuming acidic foods can cause erosion to your teeth enamel. Acid reflux and some medications can also cause erosive tooth wear.  

The lower the pH number, the more acidic the food is. Alkalis have a high pH number. They can cancel out the acidic effects of sugars. 

Try consuming still water and milk after meals. They could protect your teeth by canceling out acids. 

After consuming foods that are high in sugar and acids, brush and floss. Otherwise, your teeth will remain under attack. The acid will dissolve your tooth enamel, exposing the dentine underneath. 

You could experience teeth sensitivity. Your risk of tooth decay and other oral diseases could increase.  

Food for Healthy Teeth and Gums 

Talk to one of our dentists before making changes to your diet. They can recommend food for healthy teeth and gums. 

Choose food high in calcium, including yogurt, cheese, and leafy greens. Protein-rich foods like poultry and fish contain phosphorus. Both play a role in protecting and rebuilding tooth enamel. 

Fruits and vegetables are high in water and fiber. These can balance sugars in your mouth and clean your teeth. They also trigger saliva production to wash away acids and food particles. 


Calcium, found in many foods, is essential for forming and maintaining healthy teeth and bones. About 3.5 billion people are at risk of inadequate calcium intake. Deficiency can cause tooth decay and tooth loss.  

Calcium and phosphorous protect and rebuild tooth enamel. Foods that are high in calcium include: 

  • Cheese 
  • Plain yogurt 
  • Milk 
  • Calcium-fortified tofu 
  • Almonds 
  • Leafy greens 

Without calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D, you’ll develop weaker teeth and bones. Your jawbone could weaken and thin over time. This could cause tooth loss. 


Water is the best drink for your teeth. It keeps your mouth clean by removing bacteria and food particles. Drinking water that contains fluoride could help prevent cavities.  

Improve Your Oral Health Today 

Don’t let a poor diet affect your oral health. Instead, talk to our dentists to make informed improvements to your routine. With their help, you can improve your nutrition and dental health simultaneously.  

Our dental team at McIlwain Dentistry has 40 years of general and pediatric dentistry experience. We can teach you about your teeth and gums, empowering you to improve your smile.  

We’re committed to long-term, preventative dental health care. Rely on our experience, expertise, and state-of-the-art technology. Contact us to schedule your next appointment!