By Gina Traficant

An apple a day may keep the dentist away, at least for some dental procedures

When I was young and naïve
I used to think it was acceptable to eat what I wanted because the plan was to work the extra calories off during my next workout. But after years of frustrating fitness results, plateaus and struggling through running routines, I finally started to eat healthier. Immediately, I had more stamina during my workouts. Before eating healthy, I used to glance at my watch every five minutes while running; now I’m shocked how time flies by. Six months after my nutrition makeover, I had another epiphany—this time regarding my teeth. When I went lean and green between teeth cleanings, I didn’t have cavities. When my diet went array, let’s just say I wasn’t happy with my dental exam.

Nutrition recognition
I recently learned individuals who have adequate vitamin C levels may burn up to 30 percent more fat during exercise than individuals deficient in the vitamin that is commonly reserved to fight off colds. In researching this piece, I learned that vitamin C is crucial to our mouths as well. “Nutrition is vital in maintaining good oral health,” states Dr. Thomas P. Keating of Keating Dental. “One good example is vitamin C’s link with maintaining the body’s collagen levels. Without vitamin C we would lose our teeth.” Foods rich in vitamin C include red peppers, strawberries, kale and oranges. He adds, “Calcium is also essential for good tooth development and maintaining healthy bone levels to support our teeth.” Consuming low-fat dairy products, dark, leafy greens (e.g. spinach, kale and collards), as well as fortified cereals and orange juice can boost one’s calcium intake.

Can’t I take a pill?
Unfortunately, no. It’s not just nutrients that prevent dental problems; it’s the texture of many raw fruits and vegetables that cleanse teeth while being consumed. Other foods such as apples and tea contain substances called tannins. “Tannins have anti-adhesion properties that may help prevent gum disease because they inhibit some bacteria from bonding to each other and producing dental plaque,” explains Dr. Keating.

It’s recommended to consume high-carbohydrate foods moderately when watching one’s waistline and the same rule applies in maintaining oral health. Dr. Keating describes, “Plaque, the bacteria that lives on our teeth and gums eats starch and carbohydrates, and then secretes acid, which contributes to gum disease and cavities.” Drinking high-sugar, acidic sports and soft drinks should be consumed occasionally, if at all, as they lower the pH of our mouths. If you indulge, consume quickly so the mouth’s pH does not stay low. Lastly, drinking water or chewing sugarless gum after can assist in bringing those pH levels back up.

Prevention is the best medicine
Brushing and flossing thoroughly twice daily is still the No. 1 measure to maintaining good oral hygiene because it disrupts bacteria before it does any damage to one’s teeth and gums. Take care of your body and you’ll be amazed how your body will take care of you.

Gina TraficantFitness trainer Gina Traficant has earned her B.S. in Sport and Fitness Management from UNLV, is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine, has been seen training on Discovery Health & FitTV, and has been the Women’s Health Expert on the Fox 5 MORE show for the past 2 years. She can be reached through her new Facebook or Twitter at @GinasGym.