The Connection Between Oral Health and Nutrition

There is an undeniable connection between oral health and nutrition. This connection is a bi-directional relationship, meaning each can influence and worsen the other. Good nutrition can help keep your mouth, teeth, and gums healthy and contribute to your general health and well-being. Inadequate nutrition can lead to cavities, gingivitis, and periodontitis. Poor oral health can cause pain and discomfort when chewing or swallowing, reducing food intake, altering food choices, and leading to nutritional deficiencies and other problems.

Oral Health and Nutrition Connections During Pregnancy

A pregnant woman’s nutrition influences her baby’s dental growth and development. Minerals such as calcium and phosphorous and vitamins C and D are essential for prenatal tooth development. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 60 to 75 percent of pregnant women have an early-stage periodontal disease called gingivitis. Periodontitis can lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes such as preterm labor and low birth weight if left untreated. 

Oral Health and Nutrition Connections in Infants and Children

By the time a baby is born, their primary teeth and many of their permanent teeth have formed below the gum line. A newborn’s teeth and jaw continue to grow and develop during early infancy. During this time, adequate nutrition is essential for dental health and can generally be met with breast milk and or infant formula.

Parents will begin introducing their infants to other liquids and solid foods between six months and one year. Even at this early stage in a child’s life, parents must understand the connection between certain foods and beverages and tooth decay. Sugary and starchy foods, drinks that contain sugar, and fruit juices can promote the development of tooth decay and lead to dental caries or cavities.  

Oral Health and Nutrition Connections in Adults and the Elderly

Dental caries is not unique to children. The WHO Global Oral Health Status Report (2022) estimated 2 billion people suffer from caries of permanent teeth. And dental caries is not the only connection between nutrition and oral health. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables provides many health benefits but older adults with missing teeth (even some wearing dentures) often avoid eating these because they are too difficult to chew.

The lack of specific vitamins, minerals, and nutrients can result in harmful oral cavity diseases and conditions, such as periodontal disease, ulcerative gingivitis, angular cheilosis, and bad breath.

Protein Energy Malnutrition (PEM) occurs when a person takes in too few energy foods or proteins. PEM can result in not only energy deficiency but also can affect the structures of a person’s mouth. PEM is also associated with abnormal function of the salivary glands, which in turn reduces the body’s ability to defend against oral infections and buffer plaque acids.

Take Charge of Your Oral Health

Treating oral health needs is vital to helping you improve your overall health and quality of life.

Babylon Dental Care is a full-service dental practice in West Babylon and Patchogue, NY. At Babylon Dental Care, we treat our patients like family. We would love to be your chosen dental care provider. Call us today at (631) 893-6665 for an appointment.

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