Diet, Nutrition, and Oral Health

Course Outline

Nutrition and oral health are intimately linked. Diet and its nutritional consequences can have a profound influence on tooth development and maintenance and on the development and progression of diseases of the oral cavity. Likewise, oral infectious diseases, as well as other diseases with oral manifestations, may influence diet and nutritional status.1

The role of diet in oral health is twofold. First, food and its nutrients contribute to the health of the mouth as well as to overall health. Eating a balanced and varied diet as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Food Guide Pyramid provides a foundation for maintaining oral health and achieving overall health. Second, eating habits have a direct effect on dental caries. The ability of various carbohydrate-containing foods to contribute to dental caries depends on how well it adheres to the tooth surface and how frequently it is consumed. Since carbohydrates should provide for more than half of the total energy requirements for children and adults, it is both unrealistic and undesirable to eliminate sugars and starches. However, the types of carbohydrates and the frequency at which they are consumed can be adjusted to reduce the risk of dental caries.

After completing this course you’ll be able to:

  1. Identify the links between nutrition and oral health.
  2. Describe nutritional factors in tooth development and maintenance.
  3. Discuss the role of sugars and starches in tooth decay.
  4. Identify factors that determine the cariogenicity of foods.
  5. Describe the relationship between nutrition and periodontal disease.
  6. Discuss the effects of specific diseases and conditions on nutritional status and oral health.

Table of Contents

Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Nutritional Factors in Tooth Development and Maintenance
Role of Sugars and Starches in Tooth Decay
Plaque Formation
Acid Production
Saliva Flow and Composition
Other Factors Affecting Cariogenicity
Sugar Alcohols and Sugar Substitutes
Anticariogenic Foods
Nutrition and Periodontal Disease
Interrelationship between Oral Problems, Disease, and Nutritional Health

  • Osteoporosis
  • Eating disorders
  • Diabetes
  • HIV Infection

Oral and Pharyngeal Cancer
Integrating Oral Health and Nutrition in Dental Practice
Key Terms
Appendix A

  • Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Appendix B

  • Nutrition Screening In The Dental Office

Appendix C

  • Supplemental Activities

Table I. Dietary Guidelines for Americans

  • Aim for Fitness
  • Build a Healthy Base
  • Choose Sensibly

Table II. Effects of Nutrient Deficiencies on Tooth Development
Table III. Dietary Fluoride Supplement Schedule
Table IV. Characteristics of High and Low Cariogenic Potential Foods
Table V. Oral Signs and Symptoms of Nutritional Deficiencies *