On a daily basis I am fortunate to see people of all ages, and engage in various interesting conversations. Many topics include their family, life-cycle events, as well as everyday habits. Appropriately, many times our discussions shift toward food. Well, first of all, because I like food. We discuss new delicacies, restaurants and foods from around the world. Furthermore, I am interested in people’s eatings habits, especially after looking in their mouths. This is the time that I have the opportunity to impart my recommendations for perhaps different food choices.
Recently, I have been noting a change in the health of many of my patients’ teeth that I have been treating for years. These patients span all ages. And upon asking “has there been any change in your eating habits lately?” many have answered, “Well, I’ve been on a new diet!”
I have noticed a diet trend lately, and there are many that have been the latest diet craze. Since my childhood, growing up I remember many diets going through my house. Portion control, weighing food, shakes… things haven’t changed. However, much was thought about as far as weight loss, looking and feeling good and eating healthy for an energetic and long life, but not about their effects on our teeth and gums.
So I began to document and notice a pattern of deterioration in mouths as a results of certain popular diets. Now, I understand this topic gets personal for some, and certain diets are necessary for others, however, I just want to share a bit of “food for thought” (sorry, pardon the pun; I couldn’t resist), to help those maintain a healthier mouth.
I’ve decided not to mention specific diets by name as not to criticize one vs. another; however, I will share the “essence” of the diet that has been found to affect your mouth.
Liquid diets are all the rage. We have heard of juicing to cleanse the body, as well as teas to keep sickness away. The biggest problem with liquid diets is the bathing of your teeth in liquid, all day! These liquids are usually acidic or full of natural or added sugars. Certain liquid diets, like juicing fruits, have amazing health benefits, but you must be mindful of how much sugar and acid you are exposing your mouth to. Drinking these chronically can cause “erosion,” which is like “melting away” or softening your enamel. Just to note, as I’ve mentioned in many articles in the past, water is the only liquid acceptable to sip all day. As far as minimizing the contact, use a straw; it’ll allow you the benefits of your healthy drink without coating your teeth.
Low-carb diets have been around a long time, and fall in and out of favor. They are great for many people’s waistlines. They have been found to reduce tooth decay. In addition, scientists who study inflammation have found that the process of increasing the intake of protein and eating less-refined carbohydrates reduces gingivitis. However, many patients complain and ask me advice about bad breath, what is also known as halitosis. This is commonly caused by chemicals called ketones released in the breath as the body burns fat. If you are “in ketosis,” that means your body is in a fat-burning state, your diet is working but your breath smells. All the brushing and flossing won’t help. This is not an oral hygiene problem. So either you need to introduce some carbs, change your diet or drink lots of water to help dilute the ketones (I’ve also read chewing parsley can help).
Bar and shake diets: Many of these diets have been around a long time. They provide meal supplements in the form of a chewy or crunchy bar, and at other times drinks. Many of the ingredients are added sugars and syrups, as well as the fact that the foods stick to your teeth. As much as I have been amazed with the results, and people look great, I am also witnessing patterns of decay not seen in their past. So chasing the foods with water throughout the day, excellent hygiene and frequent dental visits to stay on top of your mouth is my best advice.
Gluten-free diets have been increasing in popularity over the past couple of years. For some it’s out of medical necessity, and for others it’s been a life choice to search for feeling healthier and more energized. As far as your mouth, research has proven that gluten causes the body to produce an immune reaction against one of the main proteins responsible for producing enamel. Enamel is the “armor” on our teeth to protect them from decay, wear and eventually premature loss of teeth in life. Furthermore, gluten is present in many breads and carbohydrates, which are sticky and break down to sugars. Removing these food types from your daily meals reduces the exposure of your teeth to these potentially erosive properties.
So, after doing some research, and discussing my thoughts with my patients, I have come to a realization. We are all on some kind of diet. Some for health, others for weight loss or a search for well-being. Our lives are all about the diets and choices we make when it comes to our eating. Those who know me have heard me say “life’s too short to skip dessert,” be it sugar-free, gluten-free or carb-free.
So, as we approach the Pesach holiday eating season, just remember “always chase it with water!”
A happy and healthy to all!
Disclaimer: The above are my observations, as well as those of other dentists, and each individual, along with his or her dentist and physician, should find the best diet to help ensure a healthy life.
By Dr. Brian M. Kalb
Dr. Brian Kalb is a comprehensive restorative dentist treating patients of all ages. He enjoys creating healthy, beautiful smiles every day and making patients feel like part of his family. He maintains a private practice in New Rochelle, as well as Lawrence, New York.