The Nutrition and Oral Health Connection

The foods we eat have a rather immediate impact on oral health that is stronger than you might think.   It may be easy to disregard oral health as a priority. However, the mouth is the portal through which nutrients enter the body and therefore is the first site in direct contact with food.  This makes it susceptible to tooth decay and gum disease if one doesn’t follow proper oral hygiene practices.

In terms of nutrition for oral health, The American Dental Association recommends eating a well-balanced diet that include foods from all foods groups.

Tooth decay starts with acid formation from the interaction between normal occurring bacteria in the mouth with acid-forming food particles. The acidic substance turns into plaque around the gum line causing inflammation or gingivitis. If left untreated, gingivitis advances to periodontitis which in its more advanced stages may pose a serious health risk.

In addition, a report released by Tufts University School of Dental Medicine suggested that the longer food particles stay in contact with our teeth, the greater the negative impacts our oral health. In other words, it is worse to slowly sip on soda or sugary drinks than to eat a candy bar in a few bites.

Certain foods appear to have a more immediate negative effect on your oral health. These include simple carbohydrate foods such as sweets, candy, soda, juice and sticky foods.

On the contrary, foods with high protein, fat, calcium and phosphorus content such as cheese, eggs milk, yogurt, popcorn, kefir, unsweetened and unsalted nuts and seeds, and meat appear to have a less immediate damaging effect.

Fruit and vegetables, although not very high in protein and fat, are also recommended for snacking due to their high water and dietary fiber content, which also minimizes acid formation.  However, brushing and flossing after eating a main meal or snack is still the recommended preventive practice for optimal oral health.


Suellen is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in the Rochester, NY area.  Connect with her at or follow her on Instagram at @Suellen_Pineda

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