In this podcast, Dr. Nammy talks about the connection between nutrition and dental health. She explains that the foods you eat have a significant impact on your oral health, which, in turn, affects the rest of your body.
John Maher: Hi, I am John Maher. I’m here today with Dr. Nammy Patel, founder of Green Dentistry in San Francisco, California, helping patients recognize the vital connection between dental health and whole body health. And author of the best-selling books, “Age with Style: Guide to a Youthful Smile” and “Healthy Living and Total Wellness: Understanding the Link Between Your Teeth and Your Health”. Today, our topic is the role of nutrition in dental health. Welcome, Dr. Nammy.
Dr. Nammy Patel: Thank you for having me, John.
Key Nutrients for Dental Health
John: Sure. So Dr., what are some of the key nutrients that are important for maintaining good dental health and what foods might be high in these nutrients?
Dr. Nammy: So the most important thing for maintaining good oral health is really having a good balanced diet. High protein is really important. Leafy greens are really important. Just also the quality of food is really what we want to look at.
So when we are looking at organic food or if you have a garden in your backyard, you’re able to make your own food, those things are really important and really wonderful to be able to have. When it comes to just teeth and good dental health, it’s like having a balance. You want to have a balanced diet. That’s going to make the biggest impact on your body. I can tell you about things to avoid, which are going to be really, really important, and those are going to be acidic foods.
So basically an example would be lemon in your water or a lot of lemon in your salad. When you have a lot of lemon or those acidic foods, what they do is they dissolve the teeth and cause cavities. So I would say, please avoid lemon at all costs. Or if you’re going to have lemon water, have it through a straw so it doesn’t touch your teeth, and you can get the whole body benefits, which is really wonderful. But my things would be more focused on avoiding things versus adding things to the diet. Really leafy greens healthy diet is really what we’re looking at.
Dental Problems Caused by Poor Nutrition
John: Okay. And how can poor nutrition impact your dental health? What are some of the common dental problems that could be caused or even exacerbated by a poor diet?
Dr. Nammy: So usually a poor diet really means highly processed foods with high fructose corn syrup and high sugary foods. And so when we look at that, most likely because of the high fructose corn syrup, what’s going to happen is it’s going to make bacteria overgrow in the mouth and you’re going to end up with cavities.
And same thing with the high fructose corn syrup as well, and carbohydrates that stick to the teeth. When they stick to the teeth, it keeps the bacteria there for a long period of time and it makes them overgrow and especially the bad snake-like ones that cause cavities and gum disease. Those are the biggest problems that we see.
How to Eat Healthier
John: How can patients incorporate more tooth friendly foods into their diets and have that balanced diet that you’re talking about? What are some of the creative ways to go about doing that?
Dr. Nammy: The best way to do this is making leafy greens more interesting. And it’s like, for example, for me, I tend to have a green smoothie, and I love my green smoothie because it’s a ton of kale, charred spinach, bok choy. I’ll put all that in together and then I will add some fruit to it because those are natural sugars. So I will add some berries, I’ll add a banana to it, and to give it some sweetness. So that way it is really fresh. It is filled with antioxidants, it is filled with nitric oxide, and it is delicious.
That’s what I would say is find recipes that fits your palette. Another one that’s really great is, for example, we’ve always been taught to eat spinach. And spinach by itself is no fun. So for example, for myself, I take onions and I take a little bit of sweet basil or Italian basil, right?
It’s just a little bit of sweet basil there. And so what I do is I saute the onions and I saute the sweet basil first, and then I’ll add in my spinach so it has more flavor, so it’s not so spinachy and doesn’t make my teeth itch. It’s something that’s very tasty, very flavorful, very fun. So I always say, make the food interesting.
Find your favorite veggies and mix them. And I love bell pepper, so I’ll put bell pepper with spinach and kale any day and eat that with some avocado. That will make me very, very, very happy. So I would say those would be my suggestion is find… Kale and spinach, we’re going to need or just got to have it. And so what can you add to the kale and spinach to make it tasty so that it’s appealing for you?
John: I think a lot of us grew up sort of having vegetables separated on our plates. So you have just your spinach by itself or just your carrots by itself. And I think the fun of food and of eating is in mixing those things and finding, yeah, that spinach is kind of boring and bland on its own, but like you said, mixed with some fruits or mixed with some other types of vegetables, it can be really good.
Dr. Nammy: Yeah.
Ensuring You Get the Right Nutrients on Restricted Diets
John: So how can patients with dietary restrictions or allergies ensure that they’re getting the nutrients that they need for good dental health?
Dr. Nammy: Well, with patients with dietary restrictions, the number one I can see is vegan patients who do not have milk and dairy, which is a great source of calcium. So I always say that if you are vegan, please take a calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and potassium supplement.
And the reason why we want calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and potassium is because if we look at the pathway of how calcium is made or how minerals in our teeth are made, and also our bones, because our teeth and bones have similar structures, the way that it’s done is that we need to have calcium. But in order to take the calcium, we actually need to add magnesium and also vitamin K and potassium in order for it to completely break down and for our body to be able to use it.
How the Gut Biome Affects Dental Health
John: And how does the gut microbiome impact dental health, and what role do probiotics and prebiotics play in promoting a healthy mouth?
Dr. Nammy: Wow, I love pro and prebiotics. Those are all very, very, very important. And instead of calling them prebiotics, I just call them leafy greens. Honestly, that’s the best thing you could call it. Honestly, a green smoothie is your prebiotic or your salad is your prebiotic, right?
So hence, you’ve always heard the term to eat your salad first, right? Then eat your pasta after. And so the gut microbiome is really important because when you look at the mouth, it is the beginning of your gut. And so everything starts in the mouth and goes down. So when we look at the types of foods that we are eating, super important to have them being leafy greens, which is going to be your prebiotics, right? Minimize your carbs again, because they’re going to be more acidic. Also, they are known to cause allergies and things like that. Gluten, you hear about that all the time.
And probiotics you can have after a meal. Absolutely okay. My favorite, to be honest, to have instead of a probiotic or a probiotic is really eating it. Like having a yogurt. Cultured yogurt is amazing. I grew up on that as a child. So even after having dinner in India, what we do is we take some yogurt and we mix it with water, so it’s diluted, and you put a little bit of cumin and a little bit of salt, and then you drink that because it helps you aid digestion.
So those would be the things that I would recommend for a healthy gut microbiome. These are really important. And really making sure that you have a nutrition plan, and also the sequencing of how things go. So really making sure that you are having your salad first, and then you can have your carbs.
And then following up with maybe a yogurt lassi is what we call it. Something like that at the end would be great. And I prefer to be less pill dependent, so I’m not a big fan of like, “Let me take a prebiotic pill. Let me take a probiotic pill,” because your body has to break that down. Your liver has to take the outside layer of the pill off, it has to digest it, and by the time these bacteria become available, the sequencing is all off. So if you can start with… Just to start with your food, start right. Drink some water, start with a salad, green smoothie, what have you, have some carbs, enjoy it. Have dessert, enjoy it, and end with a lassi or something along those lines, which is really great.
Contact Us to Talk More About Oral Health and Nutrition
John: All right. That’s great advice, Dr. Nammy. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Dr. Nammy: Absolutely.
John: And for more information about Green Dentistry, visit the website at sfgreendentist.com, or call 415-433-0119.