consider the tooth

Since we’re on the discussion of teeth and dental hygiene…

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I thought it would be interesting to talk about how nutrition (our diet, that is) relates to the health of our teeth. 

First off, some helpful words to know:

dental carie: this is just another name for “cavity.”  Bacteria produce acid in your mouth after coming in contact with fermentable carbohydrates.  This demineralizes your tooth enamel which leads to distruction of the structure of your tooth!

cariogenic foods: foods that contain those fermentable carbohydrates!  Your saliva’s pH becomes acidic, which can lead to cavities when they come in contact with the microorganisms.

anticariogenic foods: this is the exact opposite of the above!  These foods prevent plaque build up, thereby protecting your teeth.

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Now, we’ve all been taught that sugar, sugar, sugar is what causes cavities.  And while this is partially true, there’s a whole lot more to it than that.  For example, a pretzel or a banana could be more cariogenic than a marshmallow.  Why?  It’s all about the stickiness factor.

While a marshmallow is sweet, it also stimulates saliva (saliva is a good thing in the protection against cavities.)  And it doesn’t stick to your teeth like a cracker or a pretzel will.  That long-lasting factor of the way a cracker sticks to your teeth means an increased risk of a cavity.  Crazy, right?

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But before you go off to eat a big bag of marshmallows in place of the crackers, know that the idea of healthy eating through the food pyramid still applies.  While marshmallows will give you nothing but empty calories, whole grain crackers, breads, pastas, fruits, et cetera, will give your body important vitamins, minerals and fiber.  So put down that bag of gumdrops, continue eating your beloved bananas, and follow these simple tips to help improve your dental health through food:

(1) Limit consumption of things like sports drinks, juices, sodas, etc.  These drinks are oftentimes acidic.  This leads to erosion of your teeth which increases the risk for caries!

(2) Combine protein with carbohydrates at snack time.  Most dietitians recommend this healthy tip regardless of dental health, just because it keeps you full and energized!  But the proteins found in things like cheese, nuts, tuna, and eggs do more than keep you full.  They help to prevent the acidity level from going too low in your mouth.  So, when you eat cheese with your crackers, you’re actually paying your teeth a favor! 😀  

(3) Chew on xylitol/sorbitol-based chewing gum immediately following a meal or snack.  If you have GI issues related to gum, try rinsing your mouth with water instead, or brushing your teeth if you can.

(4) Drink more milk.  Eat more raw veggies.  See?  The food pyramid still applies. 😉  Milk and cheese have been shown to have a good effect on preventing caries, and eating raw veggies produces more saliva (again, saliva is a good thing in dental health!)

This is just the tip of the iceburg (the pyramid?) when it comes to nutrition and dental health, but I thought it was an interesting topic to bring up.  Especially since so many of us don’t like going to the dentist. *raises hand*  😉 

Disclaimer: I have recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and I’m currently a dietetic intern.  However, I am not yet a registered dietitian, nor am I certified as a dental professional. 😉  I referred to the following sources: ADA (American Dietietic Association) Oral Health Nutrition Position Paper” and “Krause’s Food & Nutrition Therapy”

Question: What are your thoughts/questions/concerns when it comes to eating well and avoiding cavities?  Have you had past issues with cavities or are you generally cavity free?  I grew up eating a lot of starchy, sticky, and sugary foods.  Cheeze-its.  Crackers.  Pretzels.  Juices.  You name it.  Thankfully, I’ve made changes over the years to better protect my teeth and (hopefully) prevent future cavities. 😉

a simple cranberry sauce

After about a week of eating leftovers, I’m officially turkeyed, stuffinged, and mashed potatoed out.  Because as much as I love a good turkey soup, stuffing on my salad, or a big ol’ bowl of peppered turnips, my tastebuds are about to have a revolt.

Well, for the most part.  They (the tastebuds, that is) are making one small exception.  While the rest of the leftovers must go, the cranberry sauce can stay for as long as it wishes.

I’ll always say that stuffing is my favorite side on Thanksgiving.  But deep down, we all know that I have a deep, deep love affair with cranberry sauce. 

It all started with a can of store bought cranberry sauce, served alongside my Memere’s famous turkey dinner. 

Originally it was sort of a family joke.  “Hide the cranberry sauce.  Sarah’s here.”  Or, “Grab some while you can before Sarah gets to it.”  Cranberry sauce smeared on my turkey.  Spread on a toasted roll.  Jimmied into a plate of stuffing.  It was the highlight of my meal.

And then—then!—I discovered how easy it was to make my own cranberry sauce.  Homemade. 

My tastebuds were thrilled. 

The sauce was tangy, zingy, and sweet all at the same time.  Little bites of plump berries burst in my mouth.  I found myself wondering how I ever could have eaten so much jellied (canned!) cranberry sauce in the first place.  *Sigh.*  To think what I had been missing out on.

Yes.  Cranberry sauce can stay.  For as long as it wishes.  I’ll always find something new to to use it with.  Oatmeal.  Overnight rice combos.  Yogurt.  Toast with butter. 

Mmm.  So many delicious possibilities. 😀

Cranberry Sauce

This is as simple as simple gets.  The result is a tangy, not overly sweet sauce (add more sugar if you prefer it sweeter.) 

Don’t be afraid to dress this up with orange peel, walnuts, apples, pears, blueberries, or whatever else might come to mind.  Have fun and enjoy! 😀

  • 1 12-oz. bag of cranberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  1. Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan.
  2. Bring to boil; add cranberries, return to boil.
  3. Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time. Makes 2 1/4 cups.

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A trip to the dentist has left my mouth in a bit of a droop.

Two cavities.  One upper.  One lower.  Which is a shame, since I’m so meticulous about dental care.  Harumph.

Anyways, since the entire right side of my face was drooping and not at all in good functioning order, there wasn’t a whole lot of this going on today:

For a girl who loves to eat, this felt horribly, horribly wrong.

But—really—the worst part wasn’t simply that I couldn’t chew.  It was that I couldn’t smile.  Or talk.  At all.  So when I bumped into a woman at the mall, I didn’t quite know what to do.  And so I grunted.  Yes.  I grunted.  Which left me feeling completely rude, even though it felt like the only thing that made sense to do at the time.  It’s amazing what life is like when you just can’t talk.  Or smile.

Life without a smile.  Can you imagine? 

With me in mind, please smile as much as possible today.  And tell someone you care.  And never forget to say “excuse me” if you bump into a lady when walking through the mall.  Grunting really doesn’t work so well.

Question: Going to the dentist…love or hate?