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July 17th, 2014

What’s the Connection Between Protein and Our Oral Health (If Any)?

Category: cincinnati dentist, dental health

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Nutrition is extremely important when it comes to tooth formation, and our tooth (and jaw) structure itself. We want to have strong and healthy teeth so they can be resistant to decay.

But how else does nutrition impact our teeth once we are older?

Let’s reflect on our teeth makeup: enamel is on the outside. It is the mineralized “shell” to our teeth. Then we have dentin, also a mineralized layer, beneath our enamel. When our diet has a high nutrient density, we are able to “remineralize” our enamel and dentin. That’s just one reason why we want a “good diet” to be able to do so.

So far, we know a nutrient-dense diet is a good place to start. Some of the foods that deliver high nutrients, while limiting the acid we expose our teeth to, include these foods:

  • Animal foods such as broths, meat, fish, eggs, etc.
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Limited fruit

What you do not see is processed foods, refined sweets or grains like oatmeal, sugary cereals, or crackers. Again, those are much more likely to lead to tooth decay then what you see above.

Most of those foods are high-protein. So does that mean protein is better for our teeth?

It is true that those foods shown above, with high nutrient densities, in some cases, do have a lot of protein in their macronutrient profile. Foods that don’t have much protein as part of its macronutrient profile can sometimes also be the foods that are worse off for teeth in general due to what else is making up that food, macronutrient-wise.

Let’s examine why that might be.

Take for example a candy bar that’s high in carbohydrates (sugar). It isn’t providing us with much protein, and at the same time, it’s also bad for teeth because of that high sugar content.

But, you can also think of examples that are quite contrary to this: take for example, a high-protein “energy bar.” These might have a high protein makeup, but then the chocolate they are coated in could also sit on your teeth if you were to not brush or floss after eating one. Said another way, it could have high protein, and also have high sugar! You can probably think of other examples.

When sugar is in what we deem a high-carbohydrate food, this is in fact worse on your teeth. On the other end, foods that are high in protein are often times, but not always, going to be better for your teeth as they (sometimes) lack the sugar in their makeup.

To sum it up, you might say that protein is good for your teeth—but another way to look at it is the absence of an excessive amount of (refined) sugar is what’s really good for our teeth!

…and, as stated, avoiding sugar also leaves us with many food choices that, in many cases, do have a protein-punch! Look to maximize mineral absorption and your daily intake of nutrients, both of which can be done through a diet that makes sure to get enough protein.

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