Keto, intermittent fasting, juicing—the New Year is upon us and so are dieting trends. Simply because they are trends doesn’t mean they aren’t effective, but before settling on a new diet for 2020, consider one important—and often forgotten—factor: your oral health. After all, what good is a diet that gets you in shape physically but negatively affects your teeth and gums?
Committing to a New Year’s diet is a great idea. It breeds discipline and, depending on the diet, it can positively affect one’s life. But let’s not forget the basics like drinking plenty of water, getting regular exercise, etc. These are the things that keep our bodies and minds running at their best.
There are a number of preventative measures to be taken that can keep your oral health in shape. Here are a few we recommend:
- Begin by brushing correctly. Brush in small, circular motions, as this will keep the toothbrush bristles from pushing your gums away from your teeth, which causes irritations that can lead to any of the conditions previously listed.
- Floss every day: this keeps food from resting between your teeth, which begins to rot and aid in gum disease. Floss every morning or at night right before bed. Be sure not to jam the floss down on your gums. Use soft, clean motions, going back and forth. Hit every area between the teeth and rinse with water or mouthwash after.
- Watch your diet: sugary drinks and foods, alcoholic beverages, even fatty meats can all have negative effects on your teeth and gums. You don’t necessarily have to cut these things out of your diet completely, but if you are the type of person who enjoys snacking on a regular basis, try and cut back a bit. At the very least, make sure you brush your teeth right after eating or drinking sugary or fatty substances.
Now that the basics are out of the way, let’s have a close look at the relationship between a few popular dieting trends and our oral health.
When most people juice, they use it as a meal supplement. This means you are drinking a lot at once, or little bits throughout the day. Regardless, your teeth are in contact with many fruits and vegetables, and more importantly, the acids derived from them. And these acids can wreak havoc on your teeth in two ways: staining and erosion. Thankfully, there are ways to combat these two things from happening, and at South Charlotte Dentistry, we have compiled a short list of ways to keep juicing from harming your teeth.
- Drink Through Straws Whenever Possible
When drinking your favorite blended healthy concoction, it is possible to keep most of the liquid from having too much contact with your teeth. And, this is true, especially with thicker drinks. By using a straw, you can keep even more liquid from hitting your teeth. That’s why it’s a good idea to have many different types of straws around. A wide straw for thick juices, and narrow or regular sized for normal densities, and a bendy straw just because they’re fun. Do stay away from those trendy metal straws though, as they can chip your teeth. Basically, any way of transferring your juice directly from the cup to your throat without touching anything (besides the straw), the better. Just be careful, using a straw makes drinking a lot of liquid much easier. You don’t want to overdo it on the juicing!
- Always Have a Water Chaser
The more time acidic liquids have to rest in-between and on the teeth, the better the chances of stains and erosion. And you know what that means: more trips to the dentist and quite possibly some intensive dental work to be done. So, even if you use a straw, it is a great idea to have a glass of crisp and clean water to drink from between each gulp of juice you take. This makes those acidic bits even more difficult to stick around and manages to rinse any residue left behind that would stain the teeth. And an added bonus is that water will fill you up even more, that’s if the goal is to lose weight.
- Get the Right Toothpaste
A lot of people like to rush right to the whitening toothpaste. It makes sense, who doesn’t want white teeth? But when you are juicing the acid that does come into contact with your teeth (and no matter what you do, there will be a least a tiny bit that does) makes them softer, more sensitive. And when you combine the harsh chemicals in whitening toothpaste, it can cause a lot of discomfort. It’s better to use toothpaste that is made for sensitive teeth. This will clean the teeth well without hurting them. And, honestly, brushing twice a day will do well at keeping your teeth white. If you feel you need something more there are plenty of products out there that do not hurt the teeth, even sensitive strips and mouthwashes that can advance your whitening.
- Avoid Over-Brushing
Never thought you could brush too much, did you? Well, you can. Too much brushing can actually help the acid erode the enamel off your teeth. As previously said, juicing can leave your teeth extra sensitive. To go and brush excessively after that can cause some problems. It’s best to stick to the twice a day standard. And when you do brush, use a soft or medium bristle. Brush lightly, and use a mechanical toothbrush if possible. These are made to get to those hard-to-reach places and they put the perfect amount of pressure on your teeth and gums. And nowadays, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get one. There are plenty of reasonably priced electric toothbrushes out there. You just have to do a bit of research.
- Chew Gum
It makes sense if you think about it. Chewing gum can break free those little seeds or bits of unblended food from your teeth. Just make sure you are only chewing sugarless gum. If not, you are adding to the harmful agents in your mouth. And it’s not a good idea to always be chewing gum. A few times a day, after meals is fine. Overdoing it can cause discomfort to sensitive teeth.
- Use Mouthwash Regularly
Just like flossing and brushing, the twice a day rule is all you need with mouthwash. If you feel the need to rinse more than that use water. But once in the morning, then again at night, can do wonders to clean the mouth. Mouthwash also helps keep your teeth white and your breath fresh.
- Visit Your Dentist Twice a Year
This is one of the most important things to do. One visit to the dentist every six months is the perfect way to gauge how well your teeth are handling the juicing. A dentist can tell you if your teeth are becoming too sensitive or stained and advise you on what to do. It’s also good because you get a professional cleaning where someone is meticulously searching your mouth for cavities, bits of food, or anything else.
- Stains and Signs of Erosion
While you are juicing it is best to keep an eye out for discoloration and erosion. Nothing to panic about, but something to definitely be monitored. It’s a good idea to take photos of your teeth before you begin to juice. Then compare every so often to make sure there are no stains beginning to form. And if you notice more sensitivity, even only with certain foods or drinks, it might be from the acid. Make sure you are following all the steps listed, and if you still feel something is off, visit your dentist.
There may be a good case for the physical effects of fasting, but what about how it affects our oral health? Is it truly good for our teeth and gums to go long periods of time without food?
According to the famous naturopath Dr. Herbert Shelton, fasting can have dramatically beneficial effects on eradicating tooth decay and gum disease, but he also notes that a poorly planned and executed fast can cause damage to oral health.
Fasting relaxes the body by giving it a chance to rest from all the chewing and swallowing and digesting. We forget that our bones and gums are living things that need to be used, but also need breaks. The absence of food lets our teeth and gums repair, and by drinking water during a fast you are able to have a thorough rinse during the process.
*A note of caution: stay away from sparkling water when fasting—actually, it’s a good idea to keep your sparkly drinks to a minimum, if possible. The low pH in this type of drink can increase mineral loss in the teeth, as well as, strip the enamel from the face of the tooth. If you enjoy seltzer water or other sparkling drinks, have them in moderation and swish your mouth with plain water afterward (especially if the bubbly drink has sugar in it).
So if you’ve had it with the fad diets, and you would like to give your oral health a chance to improve, look into intermittent fasting. Here are a few tips to get you going:
- Start by fasting for twelve hours and count your sleep time towards these hours. So if you were to stop eating by 7pm, you could eat breakfast at 7am. Not too bad, right? You don’t even have to do this every day. Pick a few days a week to get you going.
- Next, move up to sixteen hours. Typically people at this step stop eating around 8pm, skip breakfast the next morning, and eat again around noon.
- Once you have gotten used to fasting the 16:8 method (16-hour period fasting: 8- hour period eating) for a few days a week, move on to alternating the days you fast—one off, one on.
- From here, vary the way you fast to see which fits into your lifestyle best. You can fast every day, every other, or go weeks where you fast and then take weeks off. It’s really up to you.
Regardless of the diet you find works best, consider its effects on your oral health. You’ll be glad you did in the long run.