Dietary Dental Disease – Nutrition Factors

Dietary dental disease is on the increase in Western cultures as nutritional habits continue to change, with costs for treating dental diseases surpassing cardiovascular disease, cancer, and osteoporosis combined.

Since the mouth is the beginning of the gastrointestinal tract poor health impairs the ability to eat and to obtain adequate nutrition. Especially in the elderly missing teeth or poorly fitting dentures can lead to mouth pain and difficulty swallowing which interferes with the process of eating, and tooth loss can alter the choices and quality of foods for some older adults, as a result meats, fresh fruits, and fresh vegetables are often avoided leading to poor nutrition and poor health. In addition oral infections can affect the entire body and might increase the risk of chronic diseases including heart disease.

Although mortality associated with dental disease is low, it is the quality of life that is most impacted by dental disease. Having good oral health has a considerable impact on an individual’s self-esteem, eating ability, nutrition both in childhood and adulthood. The teeth are important for consuming a varied diet and in assisting food in the preparation for digestion. The teeth also impact the appearance of the face and also play a role in both speech and communication.

Some dental diseases that are becoming a growing problem include:

• Dental cavities which are also called caries – are cavities that result from the action of bacteria on sugary foods.

• Dental erosion – the loss of hard tooth tissue such as enamel due to an attack of acids from certain types of foods.

• Periodontal disease – the bacterial infection of the gums.

Risk Factors For Dental and Oral Diseases

• Low vitamin and/or mineral intake

• High sugar intake

• Genetics

• Smoking and tobacco use

Factors Which Can Protect Against Dietary Dental Disease

• Fluoride added to drinking water and present in tooth paste reduces the risk of dental cavities although it does not eliminate them totally.

• Some dietary products such as cow’s milk in the form of cheese which contains calcium, phosphorus and other minerals are believed to protect against cavity formation.

• Whole grain foods which require more chewing and the release of saliva to mingle with the food.

• Eating a balanced diet containing meats, fresh fruits, and vegetables, and consuming nuts such as peanuts which can stimulate the flow of saliva to mix with foods and thus protect against caries.

Proper nutrition and limiting sugary drinks can lead to increased oral health and a reduction in dental diseases that can lead to other chronic diseases such as heart disease and a better quality of life.

For more information about dietary dental disease click on the link to

For other information on nutrition some great references are:

• Nutrition – Fourth Edition by Paul Insel, Don Ross, Kimberley McMahon, and Melissa Bernstein

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