Nutrition and Oral Health

Most of us are aware of the many ways a balanced diet is important to our overall health. But did you know that what you choose to eat and drink can also play a role in your oral health? At Team Demas Orthodontics, we’ve been straightening smiles for over 20 years, but that’s only one part of what we do. We’re here to help you improve the health of your teeth and gums, too!

Orthodontic treatment is one way to achieve this, but a nutritious diet is also an important part of the process. To give you a better understanding of how nutrition and oral health are linked, we’re going to take a look at how good foods can protect your teeth, how a poor diet can negatively affect them, and what you should aim to eat in order to maintain a healthy, happy mouth. Keep reading below to learn more!

Nutrition as a building block of oral health

Nutrition can affect our oral health before we’re ever even born. When an expectant mother consumes food and drink containing nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, and protein, it helps a baby’s teeth begin to form and mineralize properly. It doesn’t stop there, though. Throughout the teen years, our teeth continue to develop and mineralize, and over the course of our life, the oral tissues are constantly recycling. To support this process successfully, we need to consume a variety of vitamins and minerals. One of the easiest ways to do this is by eating a healthy diet!

When you get right down to it, good nutrition is not only a building block of oral health, it could also be considered a preventative measure. Nutritional deficiencies have the potential to reduce your resistance to dental disease, and also inhibit your body’s ability to fight certain types of infection. Your overall diet can help prevent tooth decay and enamel erosion….or it can contribute to it! That’s because human mouths are naturally hospitable to all different kinds of bacteria. While many of these are helpful, there are also some that can be harmful.

Many of these more harmful microorganisms thrive on the sugar in your diet. As they process this ingested sugar, the bacteria begin to produce acids that can eat into the enamel of your teeth. This can set the stage for small holes forming, better known as cavities. If left untreated over an extended period of time, tooth decay can worsen. It may become painful, and it can cause teeth to loosen or even fall out eventually. This is one of the biggest reasons for avoiding too much added sugar in your food and drinks.

Demas assistant with patient

Adopt a healthier diet for a healthier mouth

Fortunately, concerns about sugars in certain foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are unfounded. There is no evidence that these naturally occurring sugars are harmful to the teeth, even in starch-rich staples like bread, rice, and potatoes. This is good news for your smile since these items can be excellent sources of healthy vitamins and minerals! Foods like this can benefit your overall health in a number of ways, but more specifically, they strengthen your teeth and help protect enamel. Even better: they’re also safe for braces, if you wear them!

Here’s a brief rundown on how healthier choices in your diet can give you a brighter, stronger smile, and improved oral health.

Milk and other dairy products

This is hardly a chore, because who doesn’t love cheese? But besides being delicious, dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt make excellent snacks, and pack a punch of calcium that will help to keep your bones and teeth strong and healthy.

Whole grain bread and pastas

Complex carbohydrates contained in certain whole grains give bacteria less digestible food to grow on. They also possess a bunch of different nutrients to help your mouth stay healthy.

Chicken, red meat, and fatty fish

Though we usually hear about these foods in terms of the protein they offer, they also contain phosphorus, which is a vital component in strengthening your teeth and protecting the tooth enamel.

Fresh fruits and vegetables

Eating a rainbow of fruits and veggies is one of the best things you can do for yourself! Leafy greens are particularly good for your oral health since they contain high amounts of magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, beta carotene, calcium and magnesium. These minerals are instrumental in improving and maintaining oral health.

Water

We may drink a ton of sodas, juices, and sports drinks in this country, but they are notorious for leaving behind sugars that are a banquet for bad bacteria. As the bacteria devours this sugar, it produces acid that can eat away at the enamel of your teeth. Sodas and juices can also have phosphoric, citric, or malic acids added to them, which can exacerbate any enamel erosion you’re already experiencing.

On the other hand, water is wonderful for your oral health. It protects your mouth by washing away any leftover food and debris that bacteria typically flock to, and it also  dilutes the acids produced by the bacteria in your mouth. Suffer from dry mouth or bad breath? Drink more water! Although drinking water throughout the day is no substitute for a regular oral hygiene routine, it can go a long way towards keeping your mouth clean, healthy, and free from cavities.

Demas patient

What’s the best diet for your smile?

This is a tough question to answer, because the best diet will vary from person to person, and depends mainly on age, gender, height, weight, and fitness. That said, most people will benefit from the following concepts.

Variety

Don’t fall for any diets or advertisements that tell you any single food, drink, or shake can meet all your daily requirements. Eating a variety of foods and washing them down with water is the only way to hit nutritional milestones. It also makes mealtimes much more interesting!

Balance

In order to maintain a balanced diet, you should aim to eat a variety of foods from each of the five major food groups daily. This includes:

  • whole grains
  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • lean sources of protein such as lean beef, skinless poultry and fish, dry beans, peas, and other legumes
  • dairy foods

Additionally, you may want to look at limiting the number of snacks you eat in between meals. When you do feel hunger strike, try to choose something healthy instead of packaged or processed foods, such as a fruit, vegetable, or a piece of cheese.

Moderation

Your teeth aren’t the only reason to pay attention to any excess snacking! It’s not just what you eat that affects the level of acidity in your mouth; when you’re eating matters, too. Foods that are eaten as part of a meal actually cause less harm to the teeth than eating lots of snacks throughout the day, because more saliva tends to be released during a meal. That extra saliva helps to wash foods from your mouth, and also neutralizes any harmful acids being produced.

In general, foods and beverages should be consumed in the appropriate serving sizes whenever possible. This is especially important when it comes to anything that’s heavy on added sugar for all the reasons we’ve outlined above!

Let Team Demas Orthodontics help you find your healthiest smile

It’s undeniable that what you choose to eat and drink can have a powerful impact on your oral health, for better or worse. While we can provide the orthodontic treatment to give you a straighter smile, you can improve your own oral health by adopting a healthier diet. This has the benefit of improving your overall health, too! If you’re in Southington or any of the surrounding communities, and want to learn more about how good nutrition can improve your oral health, get in touch with us today! We’re always happy to educate patients on ways to improve their oral hygiene at home for a bright, sparkling smile!

Orthodontic Emergencies

Are you new to the world of orthodontic treatment? Or have you been wearing braces for a while and consider yourself something of an expert? At Team Demas Orthodontics, it’s important to us that all of our patients, from brand new to most experienced, feel confident in their knowledge of the treatment process. It’s equally important to us that you are informed about some of the issues that can occur when undergoing orthodontic treatment with braces. While true orthodontic emergencies are rare, they do occur from time to time. It’s helpful for our braces patients to know how to proceed in the event of any of the following orthodontic emergencies:

  • serious injury or trauma to the face, neck, mouth, teeth, or gums
  • swelling, infection, or bleeding of the gums or mouth
  • severe pain or discomfort in your teeth, mouth, face, or neck

If you experience any of these symptoms while in braces, we encourage you to seek from a qualified provider help as soon as possible. If you’re a current patient, we recommend you start with our Southington office, or even your general dentist. However, please don’t hesitate to visit an urgent care clinic or emergency room if you feel that’s your best option. While some patients are concerned that their orthodontic process will be interrupted or delayed by emergency treatment, we can always pick up where we left off, or adjust your treatment plan once the emergency has passed.

Not sure about what constitutes an actual emergency? It’s not unusual to question what type of situation would require an immediate ER visit versus when it would be advisable to “wait and see” how things go. One good example of this would be a fractured tooth. This would require immediate diagnosis and treatment. The same is true for any severe pain or swelling around your teeth, jaw, or mouth, as this can be a sign of infection or disease.

Thankfully, serious emergencies tend to be few and far between! While having a plan in place for an emergency is always recommended, a number of more minor issues can be remedied from the comfort of your own home. Though they may not always be able to eliminate all the pain, discomfort, or irritation you’re experiencing, home remedies can be very effective at lessening or relieving your symptoms until we can see you in our office.

Team Demas itero scanner

Treating non-emergency issues

To help you know what to look for and how to treat some of the most common minor “emergencies” or sources of discomfort, we’ve compiled a list of them below, as well as tips on how to handle them from home. Keep reading to learn more!

Mouth sores

While orthodontic treatment itself doesn’t cause mouth sores, some patients do seem to be more susceptible to them while they’re in braces. If you find yourself struggling with painful ulcers on your cheeks, lips, tongue, or gums while you’re wearing braces, you can get some relief by swabbing a small amount of topical anesthetic directly to the sore. This can be reapplied as often as needed, just be sure to follow the instructions included with the packaging.

Loose or broken brackets, bands, or wires

If any part of your braces comes loose or breaks during treatment, please contact our office as soon as possible so we can determine what your next steps should be. In the meantime, there are a few guidelines you can follow to keep your braces and your mouth safe.

If a band or bracket is broken but still attached to the wire, try to leave it alone until you can be seen. Don’t connect any elastics to it. Components that are causing irritation can be covered with a small amount of orthodontic wax, but remember to remove it when you’re brushing your teeth, then reapply it as needed. If any piece of your braces has completely broken off, we ask that you place it in a secure bag and bring it with you to your appointment.

Misplaced archwire, bracket, or tie

As your treatment progresses and your teeth begin to move, the archwire connecting them may also shift. This can result in it poking out a bit near the back of your mouth, irritating your cheeks or gums. You can use the eraser end of the pencil or a clean cotton swab to gently move it back into the correct spot.

If your wires or ties move, they can often be gently manipulated back into place using a pair of clean tweezers or the eraser end of a pencil. For wires or brackets that have shifted and are irritating the inside of your mouth, try a pinch of orthodontic wax over the parts that are poking out to help relieve the immediate discomfort. Don’t forget to contact us as soon as you can so Dr. Demas can determine what’s actually going on and correct it.

Tooth pain or loosening

Although your teeth loosening slightly can be a little scary, it’s common during orthodontic treatment, and is actually exactly what we want them to do! However, this movement can sometimes cause mild tenderness. This may be especially noticeable right after your braces are put on, or following an adjustment appointment. Salt water rinses are a great home remedy that is tried-and-true for relieving soreness. Simply mix one teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water, then swish it around your mouth for about 30 seconds before spitting it out. A warm washcloth or heating pad placed on the outside of your jaw can offer some pain relief as well.

Patient at front desk

Team Demas is here to help!

In the event of a true orthodontic emergency, you should seek treatment from an experienced and qualified orthodontist like Dr. Demas as soon as possible. But we know that even minor emergency situations can be upsetting to patients! That’s why our whole team is dedicated to creating an orthodontic experience that is safe, stress-free, and rewarding for you. Because we build beautiful smiles for patients of all ages daily, we know that the process doesn’t have to be painful. If you’re experiencing any discomfort with your braces, or are concerned about any other aspect of your orthodontic treatment, get in touch with our Southington office today. We’ll work hard to get to the bottom of whatever the problem and put a smile back on your face as soon as possible!