Diet in Dental Hygiene

The main cause of periodontal disease is stress and poor oral hygiene. Another problem leading to gum disease may be poor diet. This missing link to prevention and treatment of gum disease is almost always ignored and is poor nutrition. When people are under stress the sucrose ingestion may also lead to hypoglycemia, a condition directly related to stress. The National Institutes of Health report that 87% of the population suffers from faulty carbohydrate metabolism. This is due to these individuals because of their increased tension and irritability. The vitamins needed to build stronger teeth and bones to actualize the healing of the gum tissue are as follows:

a) Vitamin A: This vitamin is needed for formation of the bone structure. The soft foods which are easier on the teeth containing vitamin A are apricot or cantaloupe. The harder foods are carrots, broccoli, celery, etc. Here is a grouping of foods containing vitamin A- alfalfa, amaranth fruit, apricot, asparagus, basil, beans, beet greens, broccoli, broccoli leaves, butter, cabbage, cantaloupe, tops, carrot, celery, chicory, chili, chives, egg yolk, elderberry, endive, escarole, milk.

It is important to note the information as professional dental hygienists and if your patients need assistance with what foods to eat to build the bones in their body, you can easily advise.

The bone surrounding the teeth needs equal attention as do the bones in our body. Vitamin A deficiency in the mouth can show up as thin enamel, chalky patches, decreased tooth growth, retarded eruption and teeth malposition, increased alveolar bone density, soft teeth, dry mouth and defective dentin formation because it can decrease the activity of new one cells. On the other hand, if you take an excessive amount of vitamin A, it can result in a toxic condition characterized by itching skin, gum disease (gingivitis) and irritability.

Other physical symptoms may manifest itself as poor night vision, lack of appetite and vigor, bladder stone and hyperthyroid.

b) Vitamin B: Foods that are high in vitamin B are mushrooms, algae, yeast, sunflower and sesame seeds.

The mouth is the mirror of the body and it can tell you by the symptoms of the mouth an intelligent guess or what is happening to your patient's diet and what he/she is lacking.

If your patient has a vitamin B deficiency, his/her tongue may show some first symptoms -- enlarged taste buds at the front and the side, which may later become small and disappear. This leaves a smooth, glossy tip and side, with the taste buds in back becoming enlarged. You may later notice fissures and grooves down the center of the tongue. The tongue can then become dark and enlarged. It is interesting to note that vitamin B deficiency can lead to receding gums.

c) Vitamin B1:A severe deficiency of vitamin B1 includes burning sensation of the tongue, loss of taste, unusual sensitivity of the inner lining (oral mucous) of the mouth, and cracks and sores in the corners of the mouth (Angular cheilosis).

Foods rich in vitamin B1 (Thiamin) are wheat, bran, oatmeal, legumes such as peanuts and beans. Meat, fish, fruit and milk also contain thiamin.

d) Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Riboflavin is involved in the production of energy through the conversion of nutrients in food. Commonly, symptoms of riboflavin deficiency are; the lips may crack and become painful and ulcerated and appear redder or whiter than usual. Contact with food or drink may cause pain or a burning sensation in the tongue. It is interesting to note that antidepressants decrease the effect of this vitamin. If you have a patient on antidepressants, this condition may activate.

e) Vitamin B3 (Niacin): Niacin is involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats by acting as a coenzyme (catalyst) in process that require energy for normal cell function. The Vitamin B3 deficiency produces a disease called Pellagra, which is characterized by swollen tongue, inflammation of the mouth, diarrhea, and small, red eruptions on the back of the hands. Good sources of niacin are meats, turkey and other poultry, fish and peanuts. The fish that are rich in niacin are tuna, salmon and swordfish.

f) Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid): This vitamin is converted in the body to a catalyst called Coenzyme A. The breakdown of fatty acids, metabolism of carbohydrates, conversion of glycogen to glucose, and steroid hormones require Coenzyme A. Deficiencies of pantothenic acid are extremely rare. If it occurs, you would experience severe fatigue, headache, nausea, abdominal pain, and cramping of leg muscles. Tobacco use decreases the absorption of this vitamin.

g) Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) Pyridoxal phosphate is needed for proper central nervous system function and is involved in the manufacture of hemoglobin, which is responsible for the transfer of oxygen from the lungs to the cells in the body. The symptoms of deficiency are the same as of Riboflavin, niacin and thiamin. The major symptoms include cracks at the corners of the mouth and itching and scaling around the nose and chin area.

h) Vitamin B12 (Cyanoobamine) is in bacteria that are eaten by animal species and available for human consumption. It is not found in plants and can be a problem for vegetarians.

Signs of deficiency in the mouth are soreness and burning of the tongue and painful, bright red sores that occur on the inner lining of the cheeks and the under surface of the tongue.

i) Vitamin C:Vitamin C is needed for collagen; it is the cement of the body and is needed for bone building cells. Foods rich in Vitamin C are oranges, grapefruit, honeydew, strawberry, potato and green vegetables, etc. Since vitamin C is responsible for the formation of collagen, which is a constituent of all connective tissue, it is among one of the most important vitamins for healthy gums and for proper healing after surgeries in the mouth. Vitamin C deficiency can also cause extreme dry mouth, which can lead to decay of the teeth and gum disease.

The mirror of the body (the mouth) may show early signs of vitamin C deficiency, which includes bleeding gums. The patient's other symptoms might include that he/she is easily getting bruised.

j) Vitamin D: It is interesting to note that in a healthy person vitamin D can be synthesized through the skin from cholesterol, which makes this vitamin more like a hormone which aids assimilation of calcium. Vitamin D is produced by the interaction of the sun's ultraviolet rays with oils of the skin.

The mouth's first symptoms might be excessive tooth decay, and the patient may complain of general weakness. A vitamin D source is the sun. You can use the skin as an absorption organ by using unsaturated vegetable oil on the skin (olive or almond oil) and sun bathe, an interesting and fun-like treatment for absorbing vitamin D.

Food products with vitamin D include milk and fish liver oils.

k) Vitamin E: Vitamin E is an antioxidant for vitamins A, B and C, and it prevents calcium deposits in blood vessel walls and reduces the body's need for oxygen. Vitamin E is found in algae, spirulina, soy, wheat germ, etc.

l) Vitamin K: Vitamin K is needed for blood to clot. The food sources rich in vitamin K are chestnut, spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, seaweed, tomatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, turnip greens, spinach and lettuce.

The mouth being the mirror; if the patient's gums bleed and the blood does not coagulate, then your patient may have a vitamin K deficiency. Use of aspirin, mineral oil, antibiotics and sulfa drugs, and exposure to x-rays or air pollutants can lead to vitamin K deficiency.

Fiber is also important in a person's diet because it is needed for good intestinal motility and also it has minerals bound to it (such as calcium pectate).


Now that we finished the vitamin group, we can go on to the minerals in the body. Minerals play an important role in dental care because they can make teeth harder than bones. Most of the minerals are essential in small amounts but toxic if too much is eaten.


About one-third of our bones and teeth are calcium. Calcium is even more vitally important for muscle relaxation, acid neutralizing and blood clotting. A deficiency of calcium might appear as muscle cramps and spasms, and the patient may appear to be nervous.

Foods rich in calcium are as follows: acorn, alfalfa, algae, almond, amaranth, apple, basil, soy, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carob, carrots, dandelion, fennel, wheat germ, kelp, macadamia, escarole, custard, olive, orange peel, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower seed, turnip, seaweed, etc.

Recommended daily intake: 1,200 mgs.

If daily intake of calcium falls below 500mg, calcium is absorbed from the bones.


Magnesium is an important catalyst for many enzymes as well as aiding calcium assimilation. It is included as one of the three most important elements in teeth and bones. The mouth, again, being the mirror of problems will show slow alveolar bone formation and slow tooth eruption. There may even be gum swelling and weak periodontal fibers. Physical findings might be calcium deposits in soft tissue, kidney stones, cramps, hair loss and the patient may seem, more irritable.

The foods rich in magnesium are as follows: beans (string beans, dry kidney beans, green beans), green peas, dry peas, celery, chive, corn, lettuce, orange juice, parsnip, potato, radish, rice, scallion, squash, tea (black, green), turnip, malt, peanut, tofu, turnip, etc.

Recommended daily intake: 300-700 mgs.


Phosphorus is about one-third of bones and teeth. Like calcium, phosphorus is an important element in bone, enamel, and cementum. If there is a deficiency, you might see the patient having fatigue, irregular breathing and malformed bones. Causes of deficiency might be excessive uses of antacids containing aluminumhydroxide and also inhibits phosphate absorption in the intestine.

Foods rich in phosphorus are malt extract, peanut, pecan and very high in phosphorus is pumpkin seed, along with brewers yeast, cheddar cheese, hickory, kelp, brazil nuts and wheat germ. Recommended daily intake is twice as much as Calcium.


Silicon is needed for connective tissue, DNA synthesis and artery walls. It is in bone building cells and collagen. It can decrease calcium and increase magnesium of blood. A deficiency might mean that your bones might break easier.

Foods high in silicon are pumpkin, rhubarb, strawberry and sunflower seeds.


Zinc is needed as a catalyst for various enzymes and is part of the insulin hormone. Secretion of insulin to deal with people who go on sugar binges may create the teeth from receiving this mineral. In the human body, zinc is found in all human tissues and fluids, but is highly concentrated in teeth, bones, hair, skin, liver, muscle and testes. Zinc influences immune reactions, taste perception, wound healing and making of sperm.

A deficiency may occur by poor taste and smell, slow wound healing, skeletal defects, small white spots in the fingernails, thickening and hardening of hair, skin and arteries, fatigue and being prone to infection. It can cause growth failure in children, retardation of sexual maturation.

Foods rich in zinc are as follows: goat milk, monarda, pecan, sweet potato, pumpkin seeds, brewers yeast, green pepper, red meats, shellfish, turkey and wheat germ.


Iron carries oxygen from lungs to all cells. A deficiency might appear as fatigue, shortness of breath, and loss of appetite. Iron deficiency is the most prevalent among women. The tongue may become smooth due to the deficiency of iron giving it a bald appearance, due to alterations of the taste buds and destruction of the papillae surrounding them.

Seaweed is the richest source of iron followed by liver, pumpkin and sesame seeds, wheat germ, dried pears and other fruits, nuts and seafood.


Is needed as an enzyme catalyst. Copper works with iron in the formation of hemoglobin. It is also a product of collagen (connective tissue) and of many enzymes. If there is a deficiency, there would be poor iron assimilation leading to anemia and scurvy-like bone damage. In Peru, there have been cases of children with deficiency of copper.

Foods rich with copper are grains, vegetables, nuts, fish, molasses, raw milk and fruits.


Protects against mercury and cadmium toxicity and sparing activity on Vitamin E.

A deficiency of selenium might be aging pigment. Foods rich in selenium are chard, cucumber, fish, pear, sweet potato, kidney beans, liver and seafood.

Toxic levels of selenium may cause hair and nail loss as well as high rates of cavities in teeth, if the selenium was taken during tooth development.


Helps clean out the nitrogen and end products of metabolism. It is responsible for the maintenance level of the fluids in the body. It is also important for proper digestion. If there is a deficiency, there would be loss of hair and loss of teeth. Chronic deficiency can cause growth failure in children, muscle cramps, mental apathy, and loss of appetite. There might also be muscle weakness and bad digestion.

Foods rich in chlorine are mushrooms, parsley, sweet potato, rhubarb, and especially tomato.


Improves bone crystals thus making crystals larger with less surface area. If there is a deficiency, there is more porosity and loss of the alveolar bone.

Foods rich in fluorine are cucumber, wheat grass, seaweed, parsley, cereals, legumes, tea and cocoa. Other sources of foods rich in fluorine are sardines and anchovies.


Sulphur is an important component of protein chains. Aids texture and health of skin and hair, and helps resistance to bacterial infections, wound healing and assimilation of other minerals.

Foods rich in sulphur are mulberry, parsley, pear, spinach, tomato, turnip, watermelon, Brussels sprouts, dried beans, cabbage, eggs, fish, garlic and onions.

Now that we touched on the vitamin and mineral groups, we can discuss some good recipes and make suggestions to our patients to reinforce good health and, therefore, good dental hygiene:

These are some essential nutrients that can help strengthen your gums:


1. to build gums: Cyonia, Manihot

2. to stop bleeding gums: Calendula, Chlorophyll, Bone meal

3. To prevent inflammation and gingivitis: Echeveria, Erodium, Erybotris, Jatropha, Krameria, Morus, Myrtus, Nictiana, Oxalis, Punica, Paphanus, Sedum.


Protein forms the collagen woven framework, which gets mineralized into bone formation. Recommended daily intake is 20 to 80 grams.

Foods rich in protein: avocado, banana, dandelion, currant, milk, parsley, okra.

We now know what foods and vitamins to eat. Let's understand how to help get our patients motivated to eat these live food groups. It is not easy to turn junk food eaters into health food eaters. There is an instant reward that takes place when people eat fast food. These same people have to be taught and shown the way.

The diet of the past is the diet of the future: the ancients knew only Living food, naturally grown. What is health food? Any food that is not processed by heat, age, preserved, embalmed, pickled, sugared, etc, grown without sprays or chemicals. Any food that promotes good health protecting all the vitamins, minerals, enzymes and trace elements that gives the body its energy, power and resistance to infection, strain and stress.

There are seven levels of eating:

  1. The first and lowest level of eating is taking whatever is easily available, without plan or thought, according to the whim of the moment, carelessly following appetite.
  2. The second level is governed by sensory desire-, whatever smells, tastes or looks attractive. At this level, people follow popular tastes, satisfaction of desire and pleasure, than direct their choice of food.
  3. The third level person eats for emotional reasons, preferring aesthetic atmosphere and dishes arranged for artistic appeal
  4. The fourth level is the intellectual, with choice of food carefully worked out as to its nutritional value, studying vitamins, calories, minerals, proteins, starch, fat and enzymes, etc.
  5. The fifth level is one of social conscience, based on ethical ideas of the general good. Interest is mainly in fair distribution with broad concern for human welfare, world hunger and international economics.
  6. The sixth level person eats according to ideological belief, based upon the religious and spiritual followed blindly, but the required self-control and technical purpose tends to stabilize the emotions and health. Respect for food, and its careful preparation, enhances its nutritive value, both physically and psychologically.
  7. The highest level of nourishment follows the intuitive judgment. The proper -, food is selected automatically, and intelligently prepared, in correct combinations, eaten with pleasure and gratitude.

This discipline, which is innate, promotes both contentment and health. How many people that you know follow the seventh level? I worked with a nutritionist and she has helped me see the clarity of why people eat the way they do. In many cities, especially New York City, there is too little time to prepare proper food groups. It is much easier to stop at a fast food restaurant.

Reproduced with permission from the book: The Hygiene Professional Partner in Dentistry by Sandra Senzon, R.D.H.