Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Healthy Diet Makes for Healthy Teeth and Gums

We know that eating well helps us nourish our bodies and fend off illness. We associate certain manifestations of people's appearances with having a well balanced diet - good skin, strong hair and nails and lean physique. But few people realize that a healthy diet is also the key to maintaining healthy gums and strong teeth. And for those of you who don't know, oral health is total health.

It's true; numerous studies have proven that poor oral health, take gingivitis as an example, is strongly linked with heart disease and other illnesses. But if you think about it, it's really saying the same thing - the connection between gingivitis and heart disease has to do with practicing unhealthy behaviours including not following a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle. "A healthy diet gives you healthy gums,'' says Dr. Bruce Ward, president of the British Columbia Dental Association. "People who eat a lot of acidic food and drink a lot of acidic drinks like pop have red, inflamed, swollen gums, just because of the nature of what they are eating." But soda's not the only culprit.

According to Dr. Lynn Tomkins, president of the Ontario Dental Association, "Diet really affects the teeth directly and indirectly,''. Dr. Ward agrees, adding that "if you are not a eating a healthy diet, you are not giving the body the opportunity to build the best teeth it can." This fact is particularly pervasive in children, whose teeth are forming and developing, setting the stage for a lifetime of either good health or medical complications.

Key nutrients that children need to ensure they are getting during tooth formation include vitamins A, C, D, and K in addition to calcium, magnesium and fluoride. Collectively, these nutrients help with the formation of collagen for healthy gums, stimulate bone metabolism to deposit calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and fluoride into the teeth and bones and make for hard, strong and resilient teeth and gums. These nutrients are equally important throughout all stages of the life cycle and great sources include dairy products and almonds, broccoli and dark leafy greens, strawberries and bell peppers, and good old tap water.

Dr. Ward uses a really great metaphor to drive the message home, which I just love. He says that "The gums are almost like the canary in the coal mine. If the body is not in good shape, the gums are one of the places that it shows up first.'' So true!