09 Feb Resolutions Revisited – Diet trends and dental health
Happy New Year from House Call Dentists!
2017 is a new year, bringing with it a new opportunity to recommit to resolutions of health, like weight loss or adopting a healthy lifestyle. Many of you might be sharing your workout goals on social media via Facebook and Instagram posts tracking how many miles you’ve run or what you’re cooking. While physical exercise and portion control in moderation are reasonable changes, it’s easy to let the enthusiasm of a fresh start impair your ability to be rational about how capable your body is. You might have jumped on board the latest fad diet or eating habit, but have you considered the possible effects these behaviors might be having on your dental health?
The American Dental Association recently reported on the dangers of the “chew and spit” diet, and how social media may be promoting disordered eating behaviors, particularly in young adults. According to a study published in 2011 at the University of Haifa, there is a correlation between eating disorders and weight concerns and the length of time girls aged between 12 to 19 years old spend on Facebook. Dieting and weight loss “hacks” featured on blogs may also be a culprit, promoting unhealthy or unrealistic diets. While it’s relatively well-understood that poor nutrition leads to poor health, it’s not always apparent that the negative effects of vitamin and nutrient deficiencies manifest themselves in the mouth. Your dentist may be one of the first people to note the tell-tale signs of an eating disorder, such as dry mouth, enlarged salivary glands, and broken or eroded teeth. Cosmetically, you might notice the shade of your teeth yellowing or becoming gray as the inner layer becomes exposed and the edges wear and chip more easily. Teeth with diminishing enamel also feel more sensitive. Consider that these changes could be because of your new diet.
Although you may not be swallowing, to your teeth it’s all the same. Each time food enters your mouth, the pH inside drops as bacteria encounter sugars in what you’re eating. This leads to the production of acid, which actively breaks down tooth enamel, leading to decay. The more frequently this happens, the more acid and enamel destruction. It’s also likely that the food you’re craving while chewing and spitting is fattier and sweeter, meaning more ammo for bacteria to use against your teeth.
Inadequate nutrition, such as with anorexia and chew and spit, also leads to saliva that lacks volume and mineral/immune system components needed to fight tooth decay. Dry mouth is the result of inadequate salivary flow and is correlated with a steep and sudden onset of dental disease. Without saliva, teeth that were healthy a few months ago might be riddled with cavities today. Excessive chewing is also tough on your jaw joints, leading to fatigue and pain, and contributes to the tough enamel shell on your teeth wearing down due to overuse.
If you think you’ve fallen for a disordered eating habit, we urge you to seek counseling and consult trusted medical and dental professionals. From a dental standpoint, staying well-hydrated and increasing your fluoride intake will help combat the aforementioned effects, but those with advanced enamel breakdown may need replacement options, such as veneers or crowns. In any case, a good new years resolution is to keep up with regular dental visits so that any issues like these can be spotted and resolved before it’s too late.