Diet or Hygiene: Which is More Important for Oral Health?

When it comes to a vibrantly healthy smile, which is more important: diet or hygiene habits? Can a healthy diet make up for skipping the floss? Can good brushing practices make up for a sugar-laden diet? Today, we’re taking a closer look at how diet and dental care affect oral health and whether one is better at promoting a healthy smile than the other.  

How Diet Affects Oral Health

The healthier aspects of your diet – your intake of vital nutrients and minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and protein – help keep your teeth and gums strong. Unfortunately, two aspects of nearly every diet, sugar and acid, can compromise your oral health in two ways:

  1. Sugar provides a ready source of food for the estimated 600 species of bacteria living in your mouth. One species, S. mutans, turns sugar into an acidic by-product that irritates the gums and causes enamel erosion, leading to tooth decay.
  2. Acids present in everything from your morning orange juice to your mom’s spaghetti sauce cause the enamel covering your teeth to soften. For 30-60 minutes after you eat, your saliva will help neutralize the acids (although if the foods you consume are heavily acidic, your saliva may not be able to remineralize the enamel entirely).

The Role of Brushing and Flossing

Brushing scrubs away plaque buildup on the visible surfaces of the teeth while toothpastes containing fluoride help to remineralize the enamel (even more so than saliva alone). Flossing removes plaque hidden between teeth and just below the gum line. Dentists have long debated whether flossing or brushing actually cleans teeth better, but everyone agrees that regular dental hygiene is essential to good oral health.

Exercise Common Sense

Imagine a diet that eliminates sugar and acid as much as possible and you’d have something closely resembling an Atkins-like, high protein diet. Now, imagine eating bacon, eggs, avocados, and chicken breast all day and not brushing or flossing. You might never get cavities but your breath would smell horrible and look dull and unhealthy. Instead of attempting any drastic changes, eat a diet that minimizes sugary and acidic foods and emphasizes fresh veggies, lean protein, and low fat dairy. And, of course, continue to practice good brushing and flossing habits.

About Shawn Hofkes, DDS

With advanced training in oral and maxillofacial surgery (but no formal training in relationship coaching), Shawn Hofkes, DDS is qualified to provide comfortable, advanced cosmetic dentistry treatments like ceramic crowns and white fillings from our state-of-the-art dentist office in Cerritos, CA. To schedule your appointment or consultation with Dr. Hofkes, contact us today. We proudly serve patients of all ages from Cerritos, Lakewood, Long Beach, Buena Park, and all surrounding communities.