Nutrition for oral health
Like many other children born in the '70s, I have a mouth full of a vast array of different metals. Over the years, some have been replaced with different materials such as composite and porcelain (when I could afford it), and some teeth have needed crowns. I also had a root canal at the age of 23. The root canal has served me well, lasting over 20 years. However, recently I started to experience pain in this area. Unfortunately, it transpired that there was an infection, and after one failed course of antibiotics, I chose to have the tooth extracted.
There’s nothing quite like losing a tooth to kick you into gear when it comes to oral hygiene. My subsequent research led me to look at what nutrients your teeth need to stay healthy from the inside, as well as the daily cleansing routine. Human teeth are made up of different types of tissue including dentin, pulp, and enamel. The innermost tissue is called pulp and consists of blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue that feed the tooth. Dentin covers the pulp and contains hollow tubules that can send hot and cold signals to the brain. This, in turn, is covered by the hardest substance in the body, the tooth enamel.
You can see how wonderfully intricate teeth are. So, when thinking about our oral health, it’s important not only to maintain a clean environment around the exposed areas of our teeth in order to prevent decay, but all also to provide nutrients that support their inner workings.
What nutrients do we need to maintain oral health?
- vitamin D
- vitamin K
Calcium is an essential nutrient for bone health, but adequate phosphorus is also needed in order to form a hard structure. The connective tissue that surrounds our teeth and the cells within their dentin have vitamin D receptors (receivers). Vitamin D is really important as it promotes the absorption of calcium within the body. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to benefit periodontal (i.e. gum) disease. As for vitamin K, it helps the body produce osteocalcin that promotes strong bones and teeth.
Where do we get these nutrients?
- phosphorus: chicken, turkey, sardines, salmon, mackerel, milk and cottage cheese, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, whole grains, beans, and lentils.
- calcium: broccoli, salmon, cheese yoghurt, tofu, kale, bok choy, and whitefish.
- vitamin D: fish, milk, fortified foods, and (simply) sun exposure.
- vitamin K: meat, cheese, eggs, blueberries, figs, and green leafy vegetables.
Propolis - also known as bee glue - is excreted from the glands of bees and then collected from the trees they visit. It contains diverse chemical properties. Research says it decreases dental hypersensitivity and the permeability of dentin, strengthening the dentin through stimulation of stem cells. Propolis is also thought to have a regenerative effect on dental pulp.
Apart from the benefits to teeth, propolis has strong anti-fungal properties. Of special note is that it has been found to inhibit Candida Albicans. Generally, propolis is considered safe, except of course for those with allergies to bees and honey.
Not forgetting those gums!
Without healthy gums, our teeth are in a lot of trouble. Vitamin C is of particular importance when it comes to healthy gums, but we must also consider a wide and varied diet including nutrients vitamin E, fatty acids, and beta carotene.
In conclusion, it is important to look beyond the brushing and flossing that we know to be essential to good teeth. Nutrition supports the optimal workings of our teeth, and there is a myriad of nutrients readily available to support this. Additionally, propolis may prove to be a useful supplement.