|Keep your teeth | photo: Bamagirl|
I was recently talking with someone who was concerned about her young son. He apparently has weak dental enamel and has developed a cavity at a very young age. Because he was born with weak enamel she wanted to know if there was anything that she could do nutritionally to help his teeth. I am certainly not a Dentist and highly recommend that if you or someone you know has dental problems that you get it checked out.
That said there are a few important things that you can do to protect your teeth, especially if you have weak enamel. Here are five tips to help your teeth stay healthy:
1. Make sure you have regular dental check-ups and cleanings. Obviously the Dentist and Hygienist see your mouth from a totally different angle and can let you know if there are problems forming. Additionally it’s important to brush and floss daily. I know we all know this, but it bears repeating since children frequently don’t seem to think it’s as important. It really is and is one of the best simple things that you can do to help protect your teeth.
2. It’s also important to eat foods that have fiber or that require us to bite and chew. We are designed that way. If we eat soft foods most of the time we are not using our teeth the way they are meant to be used. The soft foods are frequently higher in carbs and sugar which can leave behind a plaque which then feeds the bacteria in our mouths leading to dental decay.
3. Make sure you are drinking enough fluids. Staying well hydrated keeps your gum tissues hydrated and can help them stay healthy. Healthy gums can help keep your teeth healthy.
4. Xylitol is known to be very protective of tooth enamel and can be very helpful in re-mineralizing enamel. One study published in 2003 concluded “These results indicate that xylitol can induce remineralization of deeper layers of demineralized enamel.” A 2009 study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine noted, “Xylitol oral syrup administered topically 2 or 3 times daily at a total daily dose of 8 g was effective in preventing early childhood caries.”
Xylitol is easy to add to the diet. As an alternative sweetener it is a far better choice than any of the artificial sweeteners. Made from either corn or birch it is actually a sugar alcohol and is lower in calories (11 calories per serving vs. 16 for white sugar). There are also a growing number of xylitol products on the market, gum, candy, toothpaste, and mouthwash.
It is important to note that because xylitol is a sugar alcohol it can only be consumed in moderation otherwise it can have a laxative effect.
5. Calcium is required for healthy teeth since they, like our bones, are made from it. But don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that you need massive amounts of milk. Calcium can be easily (and deliciously) obtained from a number of other sources. Sesame seeds have quite a bit of calcium in them as do dark leafy greens, especially spinach, and blackstrap molasses.
In addition to calcium you need vitamin D which helps your body absorb the calcium. The only way to tell if you have enough is to do a blood test at your doctor’s office. If you are low in vitamin D you can get it either through exposure to the sun (without sunscreen for 20 minutes), cold water fatty fish, or supplementation.
Take care of your teeth and keep smiling!