Despite advancement of oral health awareness in today’s scenario, dental caries still remains prevalent in developing countries, owing to nutritional and dietary aspects.
Nutrition influence oral infectious diseases, oral cancer and cranio facial development, while dietary factors are associated to dental diseases that include dental erosion, developmental defects of enamel, dental caries and periodontal disease.
The major effect of diet and nutrition on teeth leads to enamel erosion, associated with intake of dietary acids, especially through consumption of soft drinks and processed foods.
Diet And Nutrition Effects On Oral Health
Role Of Nutrition
Lack of nutrition has severe effects on oral structures, during different stages of human growth, starting from conception till old age.
Certain oral diseases lead to insufficient assimilation of nutrition by hindering the mastication of foods in individuals with severe oral ulceration, caries and advanced periodontal disease, inturn resulting in total tooth loss (edentulousness).
Effects Of Dietary Deficiency
Chemical constituents that are present in minute quantities in food products are referred as micronutrients. These micronutrients are essential for human health but only needed in small amounts. Diet deficient in micronutrients may result in severe impairment as these work synergistically with macronutrients to ensure a healthy well being.
Important micronutrients include minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, fluoride, sodium chloride, copper, iodine, cobalt, sulphur and calcium, and vitamins like vitamin A, D, E, C, K, B12, B1, B6, B2, B3(niacin) and folic acid.
Major Effects Of Micronutrient Deficiency
On Tooth Development
A growing fetus acquires all nutritional needs from the mother and in case, mother’s diet gets compromised, fetus needs are not met and dental development is hindered.
For optimal odontogenesis and calcification of milk teeth (deciduous) in fetus, optimal maternal nutrition is must. Tooth development (Odontogenesis) begins at around sixth week and teeth mineralization starts at fourth month of intrauterine life.
Ameloblasts that helps in formation of tooth enamel get severely affected by nutritional deficiencies and associated infections. Nutritional deficiencies specifically of calcium, vitamin D and vitamin A may lead to neonatal infections, causing hypo calcification and enamel hypoplasia.
When refined carbohydrates get fermented by cariogenic bacteria (bacteria causing tooth decay), to form acid and cause teeth demineralization, it leads to dental caries. Dental caries is a progressive tooth lesion, which occurs with cycles of demineralization in presence of food debris and mineralization in presence of fluoride ions.
Hence, diet comprising adequate fluoride provides protection to teeth against decay. Fluoride is normally added to a level of one part per million, in regular drinking water for healthy teeth.
Those who lack fluoride in drinking water should opt for fluoride toothpaste, after proper consultation with the dentist. Excess intake of fluoride results in fluorosis, leading to teeth mottling.
There has been an increase in bottle caries among babies due to continuous usage of bottle feeds for milk, juices, or other sugar laden drinks.
The developed caries affect a number of teeth simultaneously, involving tooth pulp that causes pain and tooth loss, inturn compromising on the intake of proper food and nutrition in affected babies.
Dental Health In Elderly
Micronutrient deficiency in old age, results in chronic periodontitis that loosens a tooth and may lead to tooth loss. Oral mucosal problems may start appearing like burning mouth, oral ulcerations, xerostomia (dry mouth syndrome) or oral cancer.
Antioxidant nutrients or vitamin C are important to confer protection to the gingival from the oxidative destruction and prevent periodontal diseases.
Minimizing Dental Erosion
Dental erosion can be reduced to minimum by limiting the intake of sugar rich drinks of juices, soft drinks and even milk containing additional flavors that aim at improving a child’s nutrition and subsequently health.
However, children should be protected from malnutrition to prevent the occurrence of oral infectious disease, enamel hypoplasia, salivary gland atrophy and periodontal disease.