The Nutrition Connection: How Eating Right Can Save Your Teeth From Diabetes And Heart Disease

Posted on: 17 December 2014


People know that healthy eating habits are the key to maintaining a healthy weight. However, most degenerative diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes, are the result of a lifetime of poor food choices. These conditions are also linked to poor dental health, and increase the risk of contracting periodontal diseases. So, how can your save your health and your teeth? 

The Dental Connection

In individuals with diabetes, blood glucose levels are more difficult to control. The levels of glucose in the blood help bacteria to grow, while reducing the immune system's ability to fight off harmful bacteria, even those that live in the mouth. The elevated levels of sugar in the body provide food for bacteria, which will begin to irritate the gums. Early signs of gum disease and tooth decay include increased numbers of cavities, bleeding while brushing, and consistent tooth and gum sensitivity.

Another common health problem, heart disease, can also affect your teeth. Currently, it is unclear whether heart disease causes gum problems, or if the conditions are just linked. There is, however, a strong connection between oral health and heart health. Those who have heart disease have an increased risk of periodontal problems as well. In fact, if you have gum problems and heart problems, your chances of having a heart attack or stroke increase, because the bacteria in your gums can lead to clots. 

If you do have type 2 diabetes or heart problems, you don't have to resign yourself to the fact that your teeth will inevitably suffer. In fact, there are many things you can do to reduce and alleviate the severity of diabetes and, and increase your heart health. 

Choose The Best Foods

Heart disease and diabetes are both caused by diets that are too high in sugar, animal proteins, and saturated fat. There is overwhelming evidence that a plant-based diet is the best the defense against heart disease and diabetes. In fact, in one study, women who ate plenty of meat and fish showed increased chance of developing diabetes.

If you already have these health problems, it is not to late to reap the benefits of eating plants. One study showed a plant-based diet was more effective than exercise or medication in reducing heart disease symptoms for those who were already ill. Similarly, a vegan diet was shown to be the most effective for treatment, as nearly half of all participants were able to reduce or alleviate their need for prescriptions to treat blood sugar regulations. 

To start you on the path of reducing your chances of developing these diseases and saving your teeth in the process, it's best to:

  • significantly increase your consumption of leafy greens. Kale, spinach, chard, and lettuce are all high in nutrients, low in calories, and high in fiber. They can help provide needed calcium to strengthen the bones. Calcium is important, especially for diabetics, because high blood sugar can lead to the body leaching calcium from the bones to maintain equilibrium. 
  • eat at least four servings of fruit a day. Fruits are rich in vitamins, and provide needed carbohydrates. For those who struggle with sugar intake, fruit should replace desserts. Fruit is also a better option for the teeth, because it is not nearly as acidic or as sugary as candy or soda. Sugar actually increases inflammation in soft tissues, like your gum tissue, and can aggravate symptoms of heart disease, because blood vessels also become inflamed as sugar enters the blood stream. 
  • get protein from plant sources. It's a misconception that plants can't provide protein. Protein from plant sources is more lean, helping you to avoid the saturated fats that come from animal sources, which can increase heart disease. Some plants that are high in protein include beans, lentils, quinoa, and green peas. 

Changing your diet can save your oral health and your life. You will find your teeth are stronger and your gums are healthier as you make your way toward a healthier lifestyle, leaving heart disease and diabetes behind. For more information about taking care of your teeth when you have a degenerative condition, talk to you dentist about more options to preserve your teeth.