The relationship between food and oral lesions can be complex, as a variety of factors, including diet, eating habits and general oral health, can contribute to the development and progression of oral lesions.
Tooth decay, for example, is a common form of oral injury caused by excessive consumption of sweet foods and refined carbohydrates. Bacteria in the mouth turn these foods into acids, which attack tooth enamel and can lead to tooth decay. Excessive consumption of acidic foods, such as acidic fruit and fizzy drinks, can also damage tooth enamel and contribute to tooth decay.
Oral lesions, such as mouth ulcers or ulcerative lesions, can also be caused by excessive consumption of acidic foods or foods that irritate the oral mucosa, such as spicy foods or those containing artificial preservatives.
Unbalanced diets can also contribute to oral lesions by lacking vitamins and minerals essential for oral health. Vitamin C, for example, is essential for the production of collagen, which helps maintain the integrity of tissues in the mouth. Vitamin C deficiency can lead to scurvy, a disease characterized by gum damage and tooth loss.
Unhealthy eating habits, such as chewing gum or constantly eating sweet foods, can also contribute to oral lesions. Chewing gum can lead to bruxism, a condition characterized by rubbing or clenching of the teeth, which can cause toothache and temporomandibular joint damage.
However, eating healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables can have a beneficial effect on oral health.
Fruit and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals essential for oral health, such as vitamin C and calcium, and can help improve blood circulation in the mouth.
Fruit and vegetables can also help improve salivation, which can help neutralize acids in the mouth and prevent tooth decay.
The foods we eat every day may have a protective effect against tooth decay or oral lesions, or, conversely, may sensitize the tooth structure, making it susceptible to bacterial attack.
In developed, industrialized countries, there is, unfortunately, a trend towards consuming processed, unhealthy foods, with a negative impact on both the oral cavity and the body in general.
Prevention remains the main weapon in the fight against caries or gum inflammation, the precursor to periodontitis. Ideally, teeth should be brushed at least twice a day and adjuvant hygiene should not be forgotten. Flossing and mouthwash are a minimum of ancillary methods to prevent plaque build-up.
In addition to these, diet plays a major role in maintaining oral health. As the first segment of the digestive system, the oral cavity comes into contact with absolutely everything we eat.
So, some categories of food may be too hard and damage the gums, they may be acidic and erode the tooth surface, or they may be sweet and feed bacteria.
The characteristics of each class of food will be outlined below.
Foods such as bread, rice or potatoes
These foods, considered staples in our routine contain hidden sugars found in the form of polysaccharides. Digestive enzymes will break these polyunsaturated bonds and thus release glucose, a monosaccharide that bacteria consume as a food source and then release acidic compounds, which are particularly important in altering tooth enamel and inevitably in the appearance of carious lesions.
Although the amount of sugars is lower than that obtained from sweets, the potential of these foods to contribute to the development of carious lesions is not to be neglected.
Wholegrains, on the other hand, may have constituents with a protective role against acid attack.
Fruit and vegetables
We are encouraged to eat as much as possible of these two categories of food. But what is their effect on the oral cavity?
Fruits and vegetables, although they contain sugars, are not known to be a significant harmful effect, nor are they associated with an increased risk of developing tooth decay. On the other hand, because of the acids they contain, over time, consumption of fresh fruit and especially citrus fruit can lead to dental erosion. Dental erosion is a slow, chronic and irreversible process of loss of dental hard substance in which the decisive factor is the acidic substances in the oral cavity. The bacterial component is not involved.
Dried fruits contain higher amounts of sugars than fresh ones and together with their sticky consistency favor the development of carious lesions.
Vegetables have the characteristic of being fibrous, so they take longer to chew. By being in the oral cavity for longer, vegetables increase the amount of saliva secreted, so the acids will be neutralized and the oral cavity will have a neutral pH, which will in no way alter the susceptibility of teeth to develop pathologies of any kind.
Carbonated drinks and sports drinks
Contain increased amounts of acid which is directly responsible for attacking enamel. Its structure will lose its hardness. At first, the enamel can still be demineralized because we only have a softening of it. If, however, there has been a loss of hard substance, the process is irreversible and all we can do is stop it from progressing.
Studies conclude that dairy products have the ability to prevent carious lesions and strengthen the tooth structure due to their high calcium content, which is absorbed into the enamel.
In order to prevent damage to the teeth caused by the food eaten, the right attitude is to limit the quantities of sugars and acids ingested and to strictly follow the steps for correct hygiene.
In general, it is important to pay attention to diet and eating habits when trying to prevent or treat oral lesions. A balanced diet, rich in fruits and vegetables and low in sweet foods and refined carbohydrates, can help prevent oral lesions and improve overall oral health.
It is also important to avoid unhealthy eating habits and to pay regular attention to oral health through proper oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist.