My Blog

Posts for tag: nutrition

By Paul D. Nifong, Jr, DDS, PA
October 27, 2019
Category: Oral Health
Tags: gum disease   nutrition  
EattheRightKindofCarbstoProtectYourselffromGumDisease

In the quest for the ideal diet, people often stress over one particular food group: carbohydrates. And for good reason—some carbohydrates have been linked to chronic inflammation, a contributing factor in many diseases. One such condition in particular, periodontal (gum) disease, could permanently damage your dental health.

But before you throw all the carbs out of your diet, let’s take a closer look at them. Not all carbs are the same or contribute to inflammation to the same degree.

Carbohydrates are organic compounds existing in living tissues. In foods, the most prevalent of these are sugars and starches that break down during digestion into the simple sugar glucose, which the cells in an organism use for energy.

But not all carb-based foods digest at the same rate, measured along a scale called the glycemic index. High glycemic foods like sugar, baked goods or potatoes digest quickly and can rapidly increase the glucose levels in the blood (blood sugar). This sudden glucose spike then triggers an insulin surge from the pancreas to restore the level to normal. This process in turn can cause inflammation.

On the other end of the glycemic index are complex or unrefined carbohydrates that digest much more slowly, and don’t quickly elevate blood sugar like simple carbs. In fact, nutritional studies consistently show carbohydrates in most vegetables, greens, beans or whole grains may actually decrease inflammation.

Inflammation is also a primary factor in gum disease, caused by a bacterial infection in the gums. Chronic inflammation damages the gums’ attachment with the teeth and can contribute to eventual tooth loss. And if your body already has an overactive inflammatory response due to your diet, you could be even more susceptible to gum disease.

A change in your diet in relation to carbs could help reduce this risk. Eat less sugar, white flour, rice and potatoes and more complex carbs like fresh vegetables and fruits. For even more protection include foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (like certain fish and nuts) and less Omega 6 foods (fried food or pastries, or chips, for example). And don’t forget your antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Eating fewer simple carbs and more complex carbs will help reduce inflammation in the body. And that’s a good thing for your gums.

If you would like more information on how diet affects dental health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Carbohydrates Linked to Gum Disease.”

By Paul D. Nifong, Jr, DDS, PA
September 22, 2018
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition   tmj disorders  
AdjustYourDiettoAccommodateTMDtoMaximizeNutrition

Eating is one of the pleasures — and necessities — of life, but people who suffer from temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) may find eating no pleasure at all — and they may not be eating the right nutritional balance of foods.

TMD is a collection of conditions that affect the jaw joints, connecting muscles and other related facial structures. If you've been diagnosed with TMD, you're probably not only acquainted with severe pain, but also difficulty opening your jaw as widely as normal. This can make it difficult to chew certain foods.

There are a number of effective treatments for TMD, including thermal therapy (hot or cold packs), joint exercise, medication or surgery (as a last resort). But these treatments often take time to make a noticeable difference. In the meantime, you may still need to change what and how you eat to ensure you're getting the nutrients your body needs.

The overall strategy should be to soften and reduce the chewing size of your food. With fruits and vegetables, you'll want to peel and discard any hard or chewy skins, and then chop the fruit flesh into smaller pieces. Steam or cook vegetables like greens, broccoli or cauliflower until they're soft and then chop them into smaller portions. You might also consider pureeing your fruit (and some vegetables) to make smoothies with ice, milk or yogurt, or vegetable-based soups.

Treat meat, poultry or seafood in much the same way, especially biting sizes. Besides cooking meats to tenderness, include moisteners like broths, gravies or brazing liquids to further make them easier to chew.

Dairy foods are an important source of nutrition: eat milk-based products like yogurt or cheese as much as you can handle. If you have problems with these or also nut butters, then consider meal replacement beverages like instant breakfast or whey protein beverages.

And don't forget whole grains. Although some can be hard to chew, you can prepare them in hot cereal form (like oatmeal) to tenderize them. You can also prepare thin bread toast and cut into smaller pieces.

Hopefully, your treatment will bring your TMD symptoms under manageable control. Until then (and after, if need be) adjust your diet to eat the foods that keep you healthy.

If you would like more information on maintaining a healthy diet with TMD, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By Paul D. Nifong, Jr, DDS, PA
September 12, 2018
Category: Oral Health
Tags: nutrition  
ALowSugarHighFiberDietwillHelpKeepYourTeethandGumsHealthy

If you’re brushing and flossing daily, as well as seeing your dentist at least every six months, you’re doing the top things needed to maintain your dental health. But all your hygiene efforts could be undermined if you’re not eating a dental-friendly diet. Simply put, there are foods that protect and promote dental health and those that increase your risk of dental disease.

Diets in the latter category are typically high in added sugar and low in natural food fiber. The largest sources of these are processed sugars from sugar cane or beets and high fructose corn syrup. With just a little knowledgeable label reading, you can find sugar and its various aliases added to thousands of processed food items including pastries, candies, sodas and energy drinks.

Heavy consumption of processed sugars also contributes to dental disease. Disease-causing bacteria thrive on sugar as a food source, which fuels both their growth and their production of oral acid. Elevated acid levels can dissolve the minerals in tooth enamel faster than saliva can keep up. Softened enamel opens the door to tooth decay, while increased bacterial growth can lead to periodontal (gum) disease.

A diet, however, low in added sugar and high in fiber can have the opposite effect. Although fresh fruits and vegetables contain natural sugars, they also have indigestible parts called fiber that slow the digestion of any sugars and allow the body to more efficiently process them.  With the higher quantity of vitamins and minerals found in unprocessed foods, the overall effect of this diet is a decrease in your risk for dental disease.

Speaking of dental-friendly foods, we should also give honorable mentions to certain dairy items like cheese and milk that stimulate saliva production and are rich in calcium needed for tooth strength. Another beneficial category is both black and green tea, which contain antioxidants to fight disease and fluoride to strengthen enamel.

Adopting a low-sugar/high-fiber diet can have a profound impact on your overall health. Over time, you’ll also reap dental health rewards with stronger teeth and gums and a lower risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

If you would like more information on diet and oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Nutrition & Oral Health.”

By Paul D. Nifong, Jr, DDS, PA
August 13, 2018
Category: Oral Health
Tags: nutrition  
BeSureYourChildhasAccesstoDental-FriendlySnacksatSchool

While you do all you can to provide your child healthy meals and snacks at home, they still face tempting choices for unhealthy fare when they’re away. Unfortunately, their school campus could be one of those places with food choices that raise their risk for dental disease.

Thankfully, that situation is beginning to change. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued regulations a few years ago tightening minimum health standards for snacks available on school grounds. Called the Smart Snacks in Schools initiative, it promotes whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products, while discouraging snacks with empty calories, fat, sugar and excessive salt. This is good news in particular for preventing tooth decay in children and teenagers.

Unfortunately, the initiative may not go far enough. There are a few “loopholes”: it allows for chocolate milk with added sugar as long as it’s fat-free; high schools can also sell beverages like sports and energy drinks, which are low in sugar but high in enamel-harming acid. So, although the general nutrition of snacks in schools may be improving, you should still remain alert to poor choices that may fall through the cracks.

For one thing, you can advocate for better nutrition policies in your child’s school. The USDA initiative is a minimum standard — schools can exceed them and eliminate borderline snacks allowed under the federal regulations.

You can also provide your child snack alternatives to the school vending machine. A little creativity and fun can go a long way: a dash of cinnamon or parmesan cheese on popcorn instead of butter; finger sandwiches made of real cheese on whole-grain bread (with some whimsical shaping with a cookie-cutter); or bite-sized fruits and vegetables like grapes, baby carrots or nuts. The more healthy (and enjoyable) snacks you can send with them, the less chance they’ll turn to a less nutritious choice in the vending machine.

A healthier approach to snacking depends on setting good examples, providing ample selections and accentuating the positive about healthy foods. Choosing nutritious foods, at home and away, is a key building block for healthy teeth and gums.

If you would like more information on nutrition and dental health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Snacking at School.”

By Paul D. Nifong, Jr, DDS, PA
April 15, 2018
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
DontLetSportsorEnergyDrinksRobyouofYourTeethsEnamel

In the sports world, athletes are always looking for an edge. And it’s not just college or professional sports—even Little Leaguers are focused on enhancing their performance.

That’s why sports and energy drinks have rocketed in popularity. With marketing pitches promising to increase stamina or replace lost nutrients from strenuous workouts, it’s not unusual to find these beverages in sports bags or the team water cooler.

But there’s a downside to them regarding your dental health—they’re often high in sugar and acidity. Both drink types could increase your risk of tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease over time.

Sugar is a primary food source for the bacteria that can trigger a gum infection. They also produce acid, which at high levels can erode tooth enamel and lead to tooth decay. The risk for enamel erosion also increases with the drink’s acidity.

You can lessen your risk of these unpleasant outcomes by restricting your consumption of these beverages. In fact, unless your sports activity is highly strenuous for long periods, your best hydration choice is usually water.

But if you do drink a sports or energy drink for an extra lift, be sure to take these precautions for the sake of your teeth:

Try to drink them only at mealtimes. Continually sipping on these drinks between meals never gives your saliva a chance to neutralize mouth acid. Reserving acidic foods and beverages for mealtimes will allow saliva to catch up until the next meal.

Rinse with water after your drink. Water usually has a neutral pH. This can help dilute mouth acid and reduce the mouth’s overall acidity.

Don’t brush right after drinking or eating. Increased acid that can occur right after drinking or eating can immediately soften tooth enamel, but saliva can neutralize and help restore minerals to tooth enamel within an hour. Brushing during this period could remove tiny bits of the enamel’s minerals.

Taking these precautions will help keep sports or energy drinks from eroding your tooth enamel. Once it’s gone, you won’t be able to get it back.

If you would like more information on protecting your tooth enamel, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Think Before You Drink: Sports and Energy Beverages Bathe Teeth in Erosive Acids.”