Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Could The Paleo Diet Be Good For Your Teeth?

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Could The Paleo Diet Be Good For Your Teeth?

When it comes to diet trends, there are a few heavyweights that top the list, including the low-carb, low-fat, South Beach® and Atkins® diets. There are, however, a few others gaining speed, including vegan, slow-carb and Paleo. All of these diets have negatives and plusses, and generally speaking, most physicians advise patients to pursue a “balanced” approach appropriate to your physical makeup, habits and lifestyle. The open-ended question is: are these diets good or bad for your teeth? We’ve looked at a few others already, so let’s look at The Paleo Diet®.

What is The Paleo Diet?

The Paleo Diet takes its lead from the food consumption habits of humans who lived in the Paleolithic era – the period between about 2.5 million and 20,000 years ago. These hunter-gatherers, who lived during the period more commonly referred to as The Stone Age, lived on a diet of wild plants and animals. The Paleo Diet is modern man’s attempt to mimic that consumption pattern.

Meat, Fresh Fruit, and Veggies. What’s not to Like?

At first glance, Paleo’s recommendation to focus on lean meats, fish, fruit, and vegetables, seems like the perfect plan for healthy living. And, to a large degree, if you were to fill your refrigerator with these foods, your doctor would be pretty happy with your decision.

That said, because Paleo excludes dairy and grains, your doctor and your dentist might ask you to aim for a bit more balance once you’ve achieved any weight loss goals you might be chasing. Let’s see how the Paleo plan stacks up when it comes to your teeth. 

Positive Oral Health Aspects of a Paleo Diet

  • Fiber: We could all use more fiber, and with all the fruit and vegetables you’re going to be consuming, getting the 22-34 grams a day recommended for adults should be a breeze. Your teeth will love you for it as well, because fiber has somewhat of a detergent effect on your mouth, scrubbing away plaque and debris as you chew. This is one reason why celery is great for teeth – it’s like built-in floss!
  • Potassium: Bones (like the ones that comprise your jaw and hold your teeth in place!) love potassium, and it’s a difficult nutrient to get unless you’re consuming a ton of bananas and V-8® juice. Muscles, too, thrive on potassium, so if you’re an athlete, or just someone who likes to remain active, you’ll likely notice the boost you’re getting from higher numbers of fruits and vegetables.
  • Vitamin B-12: Thank your lean meats and fish for good numbers in this area. B Vitamins are essential for healthy gum tissue, and on a Paleo diet you’ll have no problem accumulating the recommended 2.4 micrograms a day.
  • Vitamin C: We all know Vitamin C is good for us, and once again, it’s fruit to the rescue. Vitamin C is critical in the development of collagen and healthy gum tissue and has the added benefit of keeping you free from the ravages of scurvy. Not a bad deal.
  • Low-Glycemic Carbs: Since you’ll be avoiding all sorts of refined sugars and starchy vegetables on The Paleo Diet, your teeth are going to get a break from the sticky sugars that are the primary cause of teeth decay. As we always say, what’s good for your waistline is often good for your teeth.
  • Unprocessed Oils, Nuts and Seeds: Healthy fats from olive and sesame oils, avocados, nuts and seeds protect teeth by helping them re-mineralize. When it comes to nuts, though, binge eating is a real concern – don’t eat too many if you’re concerned about your fat intake.
  • A Healthy Reliance on Water: The Paleo Diet shuns beverages that are bad for your teeth. Nut milks are okay when unsweetened, but water remains the beverage of choice for the majority of Paleos. Is water good for your teeth? You betcha. Swish it around and remove all that junk from your teeth, stimulate saliva flow, and keep that oral cavity properly hydrated!

Oral Health Concerns with the Paleo Diet

  • Getting Energy from Sticky Fruit: Carbohydrates provide the fuel our bodies need to function, and the majority of us meet those needs with grains first, and vegetables second. However, since The Paleo Diet avoids grains, and consuming the larger volumes of vegetables necessary to get the same amount of energycan prove difficult for most adherents, many opt to get their carb boost from the natural sugars in fruit.

    While this isn’t a terrible idea (fruitarians, for example, consume only fruit), many Paleo dieters rely on dried fruit – which give you energy in spades, but are bad for your teeth because they tend to stick. So, keep a toothbrush and floss handy if you find yourself overdoing it on dried fruit.
  • Excessive Fruit Acid: Lots of fresh fruit means lots of fruit acid – and, that’s bad for tooth enamel. Choose less acidic versions as often as possible, and keep a bottle of water handy to rinse between portions. Also, be sure to wait at least 30 minutes after eating before brushing. Doing so earlier can drive the acids in your mouth deeper into your teeth. Not good!|
  • Lack of Vitamin D, Magnesium, Calcium and Iron: While supplements can appear to solve just about any nutrient deficiency, any doctor or nutritionist will also tell you there’s nothing like getting your nutrition in its original package. Paleo fans will find they’re lacking in a few vitamins essential to healthy teeth and bones (not to mention an overall healthy body), and may wish to consider supplementation if on the diet long term. Please know that it can be harmful to over consume some nutrients, especially if you’re already taking a multi-vitamin, so do not supplement without consulting with your physician.
  • No Dairy: No yogurt. No cheese. No milk. No exceptions. You’ll find many arguments for and against dairy out there, and for some populations with allergies, or intolerance, it’s something that has to be avoided no matter what. The trouble for Paleo dieters, though, is without a medical necessity preventing the consumption of dairy, avoiding this entire food group does lessen opportunities for teeth to repair themselves through the natural process of re-mineralization. And while meat does play a role in re-mineralizing, dairy is by far the bigger player.
As you can see, the ancient diet of Paleolithic men and women does contain some very solid health benefits. However, it’s not a panacea. Do your homework, think smart, eat smart, and consider all of your options!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Things You Should Know about Your Teeth as You Age

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Things You Should Know About Your Teeth as You Age

If you've ever considered the prospect of living without teeth as you age, it's probably caused you considerable amount of distress just thinking about it. Multiple tooth loss can indeed be traumatic and costly, and, for some, the remedies are less than ideal. That said, you'll be pleased to know that aging itself isn't much of a contributor to tooth loss, and that many people live their entire lives with nearly all of their natural teeth intact. So what's the best way to ensure you're among this coveted group?

Let's face it. We all want to keep our natural teeth. Here are a few ways to ensure you do just that as you move along in years. And remember, there is no defined age where problems start to arise, so thinking ahead regardless of your current age is always a good idea.

  • Periodontal Disease: Without a doubt, periodontal disease is the number one destroyer of smiles. There is no cure for this leading cause of adult tooth loss in North America, and once it begins, it can only be proactively and professionally managed. So, here's the familiar refrain: maintain your regular visits, and if you're placed on a periodic maintenance routine where you visit your dentist more than twice a year, be sure to keep those appointments. Keeping those appointments will help you keep your teeth.
  • Systemic Disease: There are a host of diseases that can adversely affect oral health, (diabetes, heart disease, etc.) so being mindful of this connection, and maintaining an open door of communication with your doctor and dentist while undergoing treatment may help you minimize the effects these diseases can have on your teeth.
  • Poor Habits: We all know a diet high in sugar, starch and acid harms surface enamel and lessens a tooth's ability to protect itself from decay. You may not know, however, that smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can also do significant harm. For example, both cigarette smoke and alcohol rob gum tissue of the moisture needed to keep it healthy, leaving it acidic and prone to decay, and smoking can interrupt the mouth's natural healing mechanisms. More benign habits can also damage teeth and consistently gnawing on objects not designed to be in the mouth all day, like pencils, pipes, paper clips and ice cubes, are not good habits to pursue. Additionally, using your teeth as a vice to open bottles and rip apart bags is best left to those among us committed to losing teeth, not keeping them.
  • Prescription Medication: Lastly, certain prescription medicines can dry out the mouth in ways similar to smoking and alcohol, so if you're taking prescription drugs, be sure to keep your hydration in check as per your doctor’s recommendations, or use chewing gum with Xylitol to help maintain saliva production throughout the day. 
So, as you can see, allowing your “permanent” teeth to live up their name really isn't that difficult. The old TV image of every grandpa throughout the land dropping his teeth into a bedside jar at the close of the day is far from a reality for the majority of today's seniors, and it doesn't have to be for you either. Maintain a solid oral care routine (see how on our preventative web page), and ask us about keeping a healthy mouth throughout your years, and you'll be well on your way to ensuring your teeth stay just where you want them to be – in your mouth.