Overall health is a key factor in supporting oral health. A nutrition assessment is an important tool to detect nutritional deficiencies in order to devise a suitable meal plan to improve overall health.
A nutritional assessment includes a detailed intake on the many areas of health including your health and family health history, what stressor you may be exposed whether it is physical or mental, diagnosed health concerns past and present, exposure to toxic elements such as chemicals, pesticide, petro chemicals, heavy metals and of course a 7 day log of what you are currently eating on a daily basis. The recorded log would include these important components:
- all meals and snacks consumed and when
- portion sizes
- if you eat out, what types of restaurants
- beverages and alcohol consumed
- how you feel after meals
- your emotional state during meals
Once we have gathered and reviewed all of this information we are in a position to create a personalized plan to address any nutritional deficiencies and health concerns that are affecting the teeth and gums. While it is not possible in this space to outline all nutritional factors that bear on all clients’ health, it is important to highlight the ones that are regarded as most important. What they have in common is that clients can employ effective strategies in each of these areas to benefit their overall health as a key support for their oral health.
- sugar & stabilization of blood sugar
- whole foods
- essential fatty acids
Good hydration is an often under-appreciated pillar in the health of our mouth. The average person is comprised of 70% water. Most of the bodily functions, including digestion, absorption, circulation and excretion, rely on the body being well hydrated. Water is also the primary nutrient and oxygen transporter to cells. Water helps to maintain normal body temperature and is essential for the excretion of waste material.
Raising awareness of the importance of water to health is a basic but important step.
Replacing water lost from perspiration and consumption of caffeine beverages is essential. Did you know that for every cup of coffee consumed the body requires 2 cups of water to re-hydrate.
Staying hydrated is best accomplished by sipping water all day and consuming water containing foods.
- adding lemon, orange, or mint to water
- eating raw vegetables high in water content to the diet like cauliflower, cucumber, spinach, romaine and lettuce greens, celery, radishes, tomatoes, strawberries, star fruit, baby carrots, cantaloupe and watermelon.
- make coconut water ice cubes (a natural sport drink), a formulation that has four times more potassium than a banana and is high in vitamin B.
- Water is very important for the mouth as saliva is mostly made of water. Saliva contains substances that your body needs to digest food, keep teeth strong by helping to clear food particles from the teeth and prevent cavities. Its role is also to allow chewing, taste and swallowing as well as preventing germs that cause bad breath.
The role of refined sugar consumption in our health is nasty to say the least! Sugar has a detrimental effect on our teeth in the form of cavities and decay. It also has a very damaging effect on the immune response. Dr. Linus Pauling, a Nobel Prize winning microbiologist, conducted famed work related to Vitamin C and the common cold. In the same research he found that sugar severely slows down the ability of white blood cells to engulf bacteria. Over the thirty years since Dr Pauling’s work many scientists have continued on with the premise of his research. Dr Steve Hickey Ph.D of Johns Hopkins University states:
“Glucose (sugar in its simplest form, as found in the blood stream) and vitamin C have a similar chemical structure. So similar, in fact, that when a white blood cell tries to pull in more Vitamin C from the blood, glucose can get substituted by mistake. If the concentration of glucose in the blood goes beyond a certain concentration, the white blood cells high Vitamin C concentration can start to drop because of the large amount of glucose it’s pulling in as a substitute. In fact, at a blood sugar level of 120, the white blood cells ability to absorb and destroy viruses and bacteria is reduced by 75%. This blood sugar level would be easily obtained by any normal person eating some sugar (cake, cookies, candy, soda or even drinking fruit juice). Further, it can take four to six hours for the vitamin C concentration in the white blood cells to reach their optimum 50-times concentration.”[i]
Too often poor oral tissues and poor tissue integrity with gums bleeding readily and profusely are directly connected to patterns of low fruit and vegetable consumption and a high consumption of highly processed foods and refined sugar intake. These correlations were even more prevalent among diabetic patients because of the role glucose plays in modulating Vitamin C transport. It is important to understand how sugar affects the immune system and, in itself, has no nutritional value to our bodies. In fact, the more sugar consumed, the greater the negative impact on the immune function, thereby limiting the support available to oral health. “Consuming 100 grams (roughly 4 ounces) of carbohydrates in the form of glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, orange juice and pop can significantly reduce the ability of white blood cells to destroy foreign particles and micro organisms.”[iii] The goal is to introduce healthy sugar alternatives, educate on the importance of whole foods and transition to properly balanced meals and snacks combining protein, healthy fats and whole grains (ideally gluten-free grains when possible).[iv] Here are some meal examples:
1/2 cup steel cut oatmeal, 1/2 cup berries, a sprinkle of cinnamon, 1 tbsp almond butter, coffee (one milk or almond milk) or tea (green or white)
Spinach and arugula salad (2 cups) with 3-5 ounce skinless grilled/roasted chicken breast , cucumbers, onions, kale and other vegetables. Salad dressing: 1/2 tbsp vinegar, 1/4 lemon juice, 1/2 tbsp olive oil, pinch of salt, pepper and oregano or other herbs and spices
3 ounces grilled salmon, steamed vegetables (1 cup broccoli, asparagus, peppers, or eggplant), 1/2 cup brown basmati rice, 1 cup mixed greens. Salad dressing of olive oil and apple cider vinegar
- high fibre carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats such as:
- 1 small apple, 1tbsp almond butter
- 1 cup applesauce with 10 almonds
- 1 cup vegetables with 2 tbsp hummus
- 1 soft boiled egg with cut up vegetable
- ¼ trail mix
- ½ avocado with hemp seeds on whole grain crackers
Sugar Substitute options
Stevia, Succanet, Coconut sugar and flour for baking, Truvia, Xylitol
As you reduce your sugar intake you will start to feel healthier.
For many years, researchers have recognized that diets high in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains help to reduce the risk of a number of diseases. The reason these foods help to prevent diseases is because of the high antioxidant content. Dietary antioxidants include essential vitamins and minerals as well as phytochemicals that are present in plant foods. “Antioxidants can prevent cancer-causing DNA damage, protect blood vessels against atherosclerosis, help optimize blood flow to the heart and brain, and protect the brain cells against oxidative death that lead to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and other degenerative conditions that increase in age.[v] Antioxidants have the ability to protect the body from most diseases associated with inflammation. Our bodies produce very few antioxidants. Therefore it is imperative for our overall health, and its related support to our oral health, that we integrate these plant-based foods in our diet on a daily basis.
Here are some of the best sources of high antioxidant foods/ super foods to consider:
Fruits: berries (strawberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries), kiwi, pineapple
Fresh Vegetables: leafy greens, artichoke, spouted greens, kale, spinach, broccoli, red peppers
Nuts and Seeds: almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, hemp or chia seeds,
Beverages: green tea, white tea, red tea
Spices: cinnamon, oregano, rosemary, turmeric, thyme
Legumes: red kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans
Essential and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids are the building blocks of which fats and oils are composed. They are deemed essential because the body cannot manufacture them; therefore they need to come from our diet. Essential fatty acids improve hair, skin, all tissues and aid in the transmission of nerve impulses. They are also necessary for normal brain function and development. Essential fatty acids are also used by the body for the production of prostaglandins (hormone like compounds made from essential fatty acids), that act as chemical messengers and regulators of various body processes.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids offer all the benefits of other essential fatty acids but also provide the additional benefit of helping to reduce inflammation in the body. “Investigations of diet and disease have highlighted an inverse relationship between ingestion of fish oil, which is high in n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and the incidence of typical inflammatory diseases such as arthritis and coronary heart disease.”[vi] Furthermore, “ingestion of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as decosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid, results in their incorporation into membrane phospholipids, which can alter eicosanoid production after stimulation during the immune response. These eicosanoids promote a reduction in chronic inflammation, which has led to the proposal that fish oil is a possible factor.”[vii]
Sources Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Cold water fish: anchovy, wild salmon, mackerel, black cod, white fish, pacific sardines, herring, Antarctica krill oil
Other food sources: Flaxseed, walnuts, soybeans, tofu, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, winter squash
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria normally present in the digestive tract. The balance of good versus bad bacteria in the digestive tract is important for healthy digestion, a healthy immune system, vitamin and mineral absorption, assisting in digestion of protein, and synthesizing vitamin K. They also prevent the overgrowth of yeast and other pathogens. “Probiotics are defined as live micro-organisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host. Amongst the many benefits associated with the consumption of probiotics is the modulation of the immune system which has received the most attention.”[viii] Ideally 3 pounds of well balanced probitoics in the gut is optimal. A healthy gut is your first line of defense. Foods can be used to enhance probitoics through your diet; however a clinically pure human strain is your best option.
Food Sources of Probiotics
Miso soup, sauerkraut, kerfir, kombuchi, micro-algae (spirulina, chorella, blue algae added to a morning smoothie), and tempeh (fermented soy).
Bringing it All Together
What’s most important is to understand that oral and overall wellness are inextricably linked and are mutually reinforcing. Periodontal disease should be viewed as clear evidence of immune distress in the body and treated as a priority issue in overall health.
Sara DeNino Paone Registered Dental Hygienist (R.D.H.), R.N.C.P
Smart Dental Practices Inc., Specializing in Holistic Oral Health Care.
For the best cleaning ever call 416 762-0083
[i] Billiot, Melodie, M. “Sugar and Your Immune System.” http://alternativehealthatlanta.com/immune-system/sugar-and-your-immune-system/.
[iii] Michael T Murray N.D, Joseph Pizzorno N.D.
The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. 3rd Edition, 2012, Year, p. 151.
[iv] Levy, Sylvia H; Hamdy, Osman; Mohan, Viswanathan; Hu, Frank B. “Prevention and Management of Type 2 Diabetes: Dietary Components and Nutritional Strategies.” The Lancet. V383, issue 9933, June 2014, pp. 1999-2007.
[v] See Ritchie, Christine et al, “Nutrition, inflammation and periodontal disease,” Nutrition and Oral Health 2003, v19: p. 475-476; Chapple, ILC. “Role of Free radicals and antioxidants in the pathogenesis of inflammatory periodontal diseases”. Clinical Molecular Pathology. 1996; 49: pp. 247-255; Borek, C. “Dietary antioxidants and human cancer,” Integrated Cancer Therapy, 2001; 3: 333-341.
[vi] See Calder, Philip C. “Omega -3 Fatty Acids and Inflammatory Process.”
Nutrients: 2010 2 (3), 355-375; Calder, Philip C. “Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and inflammatory process: Nutrition or pharmacology.” Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Mar; 75(3): 645-62.
[vii] See Calder, Philip C. “Omega -3 Fatty Acids and Inflammatory Pro//cess.” Nutrients: 2010 2 (3), 355-375; Calder, Philip C. “n-3 Polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammation, and Inflammatory diseases.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2006.
[viii] Harsharn Gill, Jaya Prasad; “Probiotics, Immunomodulation & Health Benefits.”
Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology; v606, 2008; pp 423-454.