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We have probably all heard that dental health affects your overall health, but what does that really mean? Consider this. Think of your mouth as the gateway to the rest of your body. What you put in it, is consumed, digested, or breathed and eventually leaves your body. However, some things are absorbed directly within the mouth through the gums and eventually enter the bloodstream. Once there, this is pumped through your body by the heart. Can you see how something like bacteria or an infectious virus could easily enter into the bloodstream and begin coursing through your body? This is why maintaining a healthy mouth can lead to a healthier lifestyle and body.

It all starts with what you put into your body. The food you eat contains sugars and carbohydrates that bacteria converts to acid in your mouth. This acid then wears away your tooth enamel, which is what protects your teeth against the onslaught of tooth decay. The best foods for your teeth, according to WebMD, are firm and crunchy fruits and vegetables. These can include apples, pears, carrots, celery, and others. Foods like apples also act as a natural “toothpaste”, as the texture and crunch help clean teeth while protecting enamel. The article also recommends cheeses, chicken and other meats, and nuts as part of the “tooth-friendly” diet. These foods are rich in calcium and phosphorus, which helps re-mineralize your tooth enamel after it has been eroded by acids.

An important point to consider is that eating healthy is about more than a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables. Portion control and eating habits are equally as important to maintaining a healthy diet. Pay attention to serving sizes and how much food is filling your plate. Waiting a few minutes before going back for seconds gives your brain time to catch up with your stomach and tell you that you are full. Snacking throughout the day is actually good for your metabolism. However, keeping in mind that sugars and carbs are detrimental to your oral health, it is best to have healthy snacks on hand. These can include carrots, nuts, apples, dried fruit, and other fresh vegetables.

Helpguide.com is a resource offering ten healthy tips for maintaining a well-balanced diet. One of the tips mentions the importance of calcium to build strong bones and teeth. Calcium, a key nutrient to strengthen your body, is found in many foods, beyond just a tall glass of milk. Vegetables and greens such as kale, romaine lettuce, celery, broccoli, cabbage, summer squash, green beans, and asparagus are just a few of the calcium rich greens that should be incorporated into your everyday diet. Another source of calcium is found in beans. Almost all types of beans contain beneficial and significant levels of calcium.

If you have questions about how your diet may be affecting your oral and overall health, feel free to talk to your dentist. The doctors are able to recommend “tooth friendly” foods that will help keep you healthy, as well as best practices for maintaining your dental health.