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The Real Secret to Healthy Teeth and Gums Is Diet

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health teeth-tooth brushing-oral health

Dr. Mark Burhenne, aka “Dr. Mark”, runs the Ask the Dentist blog with his daughter Catharine, and knows that the number one cause for the number one disease in the world — tooth decay or cavities — is actually diet. 

Dr. Burhenne knows that while most dentists chalk up oral health issues to poor brushing or flossing habits, it can also come down to diet.

“When it comes to diet, you have to break it down into two different categories,” Dr. Burhenne said. The first is what the food does in your mouth and the second has to do with the food’s overall nutritional quality. 

First exposure to foods

We’ve all heard that candy rots your teeth, but Dr. Burhenne says it’s more than just lollipops causing cavities and broken molars. Food processing, he explains, has created a plethora of hard-to-eat foods.

Beverages can contribute to acidic erosion of the tooth structure. “Our teeth are very vulnerable to acid,” Burhenne said.

It’s not all about calcium

According to Dr. Burhenne, the most important vitamin to promote strong teeth and bones isn’t calcium, it’s a recently discovered vitamin called K2. 

“K2 is the protein that activates other proteins that help bones re-mineralize and teeth re-mineralize,” Dr. Burhenne said.

Good habits for a healthy diet

So how do you change your diet and habits to save on dentist office visits in the future? Aside from avoiding corrosive foods whenever possible, there are ways to keep your nutrition and oral health in check.

The first may sound counterintuitive, but Dr. Burhenne says to wait at least 30 to 45 minutes before brushing after eating or drinking. When teeth are exposed to acid, he explains, the outer layer softens because it’s decalcifying, so you want to give your mouth time to adjust

Another way to mitigate the decalcifying effects of acid on your teeth is with a simple rinse.

As for what foods you should add to the grocery list, Dr. Burhenne says fermented products like sauerkraut or fermented bean curd, butter, and fatty meats are all great sources of K2. Organ meats in particular, such as liver, are especially K2-rich. He also recommends cod liver oil for kids.

At the end of the day, nobody’s suggesting you stop brushing and flossing regularly. But you may want to think about what goes into your mouth first for a truly clean and healthy set of chompers.

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