Why Yogurt (and Other Fermented Foods) May Help Keep Your Mouth Healthy

vintage milk adAsk someone to name a food associated with good dental health, and you’re apt to hear “dairy.” You can thank its calcium content and decades of advertising for that.

Calcium is one of the key minerals needed to keep tooth enamel strong. (Magnesium and phosphorous are the two other biggies.) And some research has suggested that it might play a role in maintaining healthy gums, as well.

But a new study in PLoS ONE suggests that it may not be the calcium at all but probiotics in fermented dairy products such as yogurt.

Researchers analyzed periodontal and nutritional data from over 6100 Korean adults. They found that those who ate less yogurt had more gum disease than others. Those who consumed less milk or calcium, on the other hand, didn’t exhibit more periodontal issues.

In conclusion, periodonitis was significantly associated with the less intake of yogurt among the Korean adults, but the calcium contained in yogurt is not likely to cause it.

What makes yogurt different, of course, is its probiotic content – helpful microbes that help defend against disease – and previous research appears to support this.

kombuchaOf course, yogurt is hardly the only source of probiotics. Fermented foods of all kinds can be wonderful additions to your diet. These include kombucha, kimchi, tempeh, lassi, sauerkraut, raw apple cider vinegar, kefir, miso, and fermented cod liver oil.

Naturally fermented foods have been proven to show many benefits in cultures around the world. According to one recent paper in Frontiers in Microbiology, for instance,

The highest longevity observed among the people of Okinawa prefecture in Japan is mostly due to their traditional and cultural foods such as natto, miso, tofu, shoyu, fermented vegetables, cholesterol-free, low-fat, and high bioactive-compounded foods in addition to active physical activity, sound environment, happiness and other several factors.

Probiotics can also be taken with prebiotics (a/k/a synbiotics) for an even bigger impact. According to research in the Journal of Medicine and Life,

It appears that synbiotics increase survival of probiotic bacteria, stimulating their growth in the intestinal tract and improving the balance of health-promoting bacteria.

Good dietary sources of prebiotics include raw asparagus, raw garlic, onion (both raw and cooked), raw dandelion greens, raw leeks, under-ripe bananas, raw chicory root, and raw Jerusalem artichokes. (Why so much raw? Cooking can break down a lot of the helpful elements in some prebiotic foods.)

Pro- and prebiotics can be an easy addition to your daily routine for improving oral and systemic health alike, physical and mental. Maybe consider grabbing a bottle of kombucha for your next holiday party rather than that bottle of wine.

Fluoride in Your Tea

5001227590_1a883e0927_zThough we’ve blogged before on the benefits of green tea for healthy gums and its ability to relieve oral pain, we’ve not looked at the relationship between tea – green or otherwise – and fluoride

A recent entry on the Nourished Kitchen blog, a traditional foods blog, posed the question: Should you be worried about fluoride in your kombucha? If you have never even thought to ask the question, you’re not alone. Most of us don’t know where to look for fluoride.

In answering the question, the blog’s creator Jenny McGruther cites the Big Book of Kombucha:

Kombucha is made from weak tea, rather than strong, so there will be less fluoride in kombucha than a strong tea of the same volume.

On the surface, this answer might seem plausible. But it’s an incomplete answer. The reality is, since we don’t often consider what foods and beverages may contain fluoride; since many of us live with fluoridated municipal water supplies; since many of us use products like toothpaste and mouthwash that contain fluoride, we have no real way of knowing what our daily intake is.

The truth is, ingesting a known toxin daily at unknown levels can be problematic.

Though McGruther says she doesn’t “worry about relatively small amounts of fluoride in the modest amounts of kombucha my family drinks,” this might err on the side of simplicity.

If you’re wondering about fluoride in tea products, one of the best sources for scientifically based information is the Fluoride Action Network.

Five informative links to assist  your decision making:

  1. How fluoride ends up in a tea plant?
  1. Which tea contains high levels of fluoride?
  1. What kind of health issues a heavy tea drinker might expect?
  1. How much fluoride is in newer tea commodities, such as: packed teas, bottled tea, canned tea, and instant tea powders?
  1. How to minimize your exposure to fluoride in tea, and other products?

That said, it’s important to remember that drinking tea does have many benefits, some which may offset potential fluoride exposure. A well-researched approach can provide information that allows for balanced decision making.




Healthier Versions of 4 Favorite Holiday Foods


Then he slunk to the icebox. He took the Whos’ feast!
He took the Who pudding! He took the roast beast!

He cleaned out that icebox as quick as a flash.
Why, that Grinch even took the last can of Who hash!


Food is part of the holiday fun! Every culture and family has their own traditional foods from tamales to panettone, latkes to lutefisk. The holidays just don’t feel quite the same without them.

But while they can do wonders for our mental well-being, they’re not exactly renowned for their healthfulness. Does that mean we shouldn’t enjoy them? Even your mother’s cheesy hashbrowns? Your grandmother’s famous fudge and brittle? Your dad’s roasted basil turkey with heaps of potatoes and stuffing on the side?

The Tooth-Body Blog offers some good advice (be sure to check out the rest of their holiday eating tips, as well):

Despite our best intentions, it’s easy to go a little overboard…. We get distracted, we nibble while we socialize, and before we know it, we’ve made our way around the table. Those unconscious bites add up. Maintaining awareness – being mindful – can help you make smart choices. Checking in with yourself makes it easier to reach for the freshest and least processed food available while bypassing other options. And if you choose to indulge a little, okay. Bring your attention to the moment and savor the morsel. No moral judgement allowed.

Mindfulness is a path to moderation, where we can still enjoy some of our holiday favorites while avoiding a full-on carb/sugar-bomb.

Another option is to go with healthier variations on holiday foods. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Fruitcake
    There are a number of terrific gluten-free recipes out there, such as this one from Chris Kanzler, as well as flourless versions like this on GroupRecipes. Not a fruitcake fan? Try a 100% fruit “cake” instead – or just enjoy some fresh fruit on its own. It’s a better option than the dried fruits commonly eaten this time of year. Sugar is more concentrated in dried fruit (most are more than 50% sugar!), and the fruit tends to stick to the teeth.
  2. Sweet Potatoes
    Sweet potatoes are excellent sources of antioxidants and much higher in fiber than regular potatoes. Suffocating them with marshmallows and brown sugar kind of defeats the purpose, though. Instead, why not try baking them into a crispy, savory side dish? Twice-baked can be just as delicious!
  3. Gingerbread
    Gingerbread good for more than just making houses. It’s a delicious, warming treat – especially when you make it yourself with healthful eating in mind. For instance, this whole grain version uses honey and molasses. This gingerbread cake, on the other hand, uses some sugar but also coconut oil. Even gluten-free vegan variations are possible!
  4. Eggnog
    Toast the new year with this classic holiday drink made in a more wholesome way, either cooked or raw. Or try a nog made with nut milk – even a totally vegan version!

From all of us here at Pride Dental, happy holidays! We’ll see you in the new year!

Regular posting will resume on Thursday, January 7, 2016.

Image by Michele