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How can diet help me in preventing tooth and gum disease?

Sugars activate bacteria in your mouth and the bacteria then produce the acids that cause tooth decay. Each sugar exposure creates about 20 minutes of acid. So limiting how often you have sugars or starches will reduce the chances of cavity development. 

Also limit foods high in acids (citrus fruits, vinegar etc.) as they will enhance the acidic breakdown of your teeth.
In addition, there is some evidence that probiotics (found in items like yogurt and aged cheeses) may help to may reduce some strains of bacteria that cause gum disease and cavities.

And of course, a healthy diet will make your entire body, including your gums, healthy.
Without our teeth, we cannot eat many foods that provide important nutrients. Teeth are alive. Your saliva nourishes them through tiny passageways in the tooth.

Gum disease is associated with cardiovascular disease, and many nutrients, such as coenzyme Q10, zinc, folate, vitamin C, magnesium, and calcium, are important for both gum health and heart health.

Certain types of bacteria found in saliva use sugar in food to create plaque, a sticky coating that helps the bacteria cling to and destroy our teeth. Avoid sticky sweets that stay in your mouth a long time, and whenever possible, eat foods with fiber that scrape off plaque, acting as a toothbrush (raw carrot sticks, apples, celery sticks, whole grains, etc.). The least cavity-causing way to eat sweets is to have them with meals and not between.
Our Bodies, Ourselves: A New Edition for a New Era

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Our Bodies, Ourselves: A New Edition for a New Era

America's best-selling book on all aspects of women's health With more than four million copies sold, "Our Bodies, Ourselves" is "the" classic resource that women of all ages can turn to for...
Eating a healthy diet can improve your oral health in several ways. First, getting the vitamins and minerals that you need is vital for helping your body’s immune system fight off infections, including potentially serious infections like those that can lead to gum disease and even tooth loss. Another reason to stick to a healthy diet is that bacteria in your mouth love sugary foods and drinks. By limiting the amount of sugar you eat, you curb how much enamel-destroying acid bacteria make, so your teeth and gums stay strong and healthy. Drinking plenty of water instead of sugary sodas and juices helps prevent tooth decay by washing away food particles as well as the acid produced by the bacteria living in your mouth.
The foods you choose and how often you eat them can affect your general health and the health of your teeth and gums, too. 

If your diet lacks certain nutrients, it may be more difficult for tissues in your mouth to resist infection. This may contribute to gum disease. Severe gum disease is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Many researchers believe that the disease progresses faster and is potentially more severe in people with poor nutrition.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.