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White Teeth, Healthy Smile

How are you going to chew that meat or those delightfully crunchy fruits and veggies if you don’t have teeth?

white teeth smile

Beyond the optics of missing teeth and what that does to our smile, your mouth is actually a great indicator of overall health, as it provides clues on systemic diseases (AIDS, diabetes, heart disease, etc.).  periodontal (gum) disease in pregnant women may put them at risk for pre-term or low birth weight babies.

Do I have you running for the floss and toothbrush?

I was in a meeting in London for work recently, and the overarching topic was health and well-being. Oral health was a topic we were fortunate to hear about from guest speakers from Public Health England and the Mayor of London’s office. Without disclosing the details of that particular meeting, that was the start of the inspiration for me sharing thoughts on this with you. Additionally, I had my six month checkup recently. My dentist and dental hygienist are awesome. Tooth number 8 is a discussion every time I go in (short story – I chipped my front tooth as a kid and get antsy whenever my dentist peeps go anywhere near it). Anyhoo…this is why oral health is heavily on my mind and it should be on yours, too. Check out these mind-blowing stats for the U.S. for year 2011-12:

  • Quality of life as we age declines if we have tooth decay and tooth loss
  •  (Just) 48% of adults aged 20–64 had a full set of permanent teeth
  • ~19% of adults aged 65 and over were edentulous (no teeth)
  • ~91% of U.S. adults aged 20–64 had cavities in permanent teeth, and  94-97% of adults aged 35-64 did, too

healthy teeth and mouthLet’s talk about home shows where people comment on the decor, paint color, whether they like the flooring or not – you know, the cosmetic stuff. Rarely do you hear discussion of functioning electricity or plumbing until a problem is uncovered.  Don’t many people do the same with health? hmm…

Don’t panic.  There are some easy things you can do to take better care of that grill of yours. And guess what? It’s much of the same stuff we’ve already talked about from a food perspective. This is simply adding in the mechanics (you can and should chat with your dentist/healthcare team for unique details related to your health).

Check it out:

Proper brushing (twice a day for 2-3 minutes each) may help reduce your risk for heart disease, and flossing (at least once a day) is a pretty impactful and easy thing to do, too.

  • Use toothpaste with fluoride and replace your toothbrush regularly
  • Be planet-wise and turn the water off while you brush for those 2-3 minutes morning and night. This can save 200 gallons of water per month. Yep, 200.
  • Eat a balanced diet. The American Dental Association suggests including these five things for dental (teeth) health:
  1. Water (especially with fluoride)
  2. Dairy (milk, cheese, and yogurt) – unless you are allergic, of course
  3. Lean proteins
  4. Fruits and vegetables (fiber and water content as well as stimulating saliva – good stuff)
  5. Nuts – unless you are allergic, of course

This is obviously not an exhaustive list, it’s just a fun way to focus on some things that matter.  There are many things that are important for our teeth (and health).

Here’s the deal if you want to oversimplify a complex thing: hydration, chewing, and stimulating saliva are key to a healthy mouth/teeth as is getting the nutrients we need to support the function and strength of our body.

Chewing begins the breakdown of all the foods we eat to get at the nutrients in that food.

You need the teeth to get to the food and you need the food to keep the teeth healthy.


Sometimes small things add up to big things.  Consider your total food intake, your exercise routine, and if you take – or are considering taking –  supplements, talk with your dietitian/doctor/pharmacist so you don’t miss the mark on what they are intended for.

Food first. Supplements can be helpful if used appropriately.

So many things to consider! I’m not going to get them all here in this one post, but don’t worry. You don’t have to figure this all out alone.

Bottom line? Take care of your body, teeth, and mind. How you go about that is up to you.  Figure that out with your healthcare team.  Just ask. It’s what the good ones like me are here for. #yougotthis

By Kim Kirchherr

I am a dietitian working in food and fiber (agriculture) through retail, addressing opportunities to make things better for people and planet.

3 replies on “White Teeth, Healthy Smile”

Nice comprehensive little essay on an important topic. Amazing how far we’ve come in dental hygiene since the era of my grandparents who could expect a full-mouth extraction of teeth. Perhaps we’ll soon see the demise of the denture industry.


Perhaps an evolved version – it seems there are many things that impact our food/health/nutrition that will be different. It’s exciting and interesting to see where we can all go in the future as tools and knowledge continue to grow in choice.


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