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The effects of a healthy diet begin in the mouth 

Senior couple preparing food in the kitchen. An old man and woman inside the house.

When my father, a conservative retiree whose main hobby is to grow his own garden, confessed to me that all his vegetables were organic, I said to myself: “Our eating habits have changed”. No doubt.

You could list an endless list of everyday events that prove it – the emergence of sections of healthy food in supermarkets, the proliferation of herbalists or dozens of consumers in the aisles of the supermarket reading the label of ingredients.

Moreover, we care more and more about what we eat, where the food comes from or the treatment that has been given to them.

Not only do we pay attention to the figure, it is also a matter of health and ethics. According to the Spanish Nutrition Association, 80 per cent of the population in Spain is concerned about eating a healthier diet. The 80! Although at this time it is not translated into the shopping cart, it reveals a trend in the medium to long term future.

To have a healthy diet, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that adults consume at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, legumes, nuts, unprocessed cereals; and limit the consumption of sugars, fats and salt daily. But, to be more precise and to ensure the diet fits the characteristics of each individual, there are online platforms that help find the best foods according to the characteristics or levels of physical activity of each one, such as ChooseMyPlate.gov, the website of the Centre for Nutrition Policies and Promotion, a body under the Ministry of Agriculture in the United States.

The body is a complex machine in which all elements are related, and the food we choose will have an enormous impact at physical and psychological levels. From beginning to end.

The first organ that comes in contact with food are the teeth, and the excesses can have irreversible consequences on them. Excess sugar for example will not only cause hypertension, diabetes, weight gain, kidney failure or cardiovascular diseases; It is most likely to cause cavities, gum disease and even the loss of teeth. Oral diseases also have an impact on other organs, and it has been shown that, for example, periodontitis increases the risk of cardiovascular problems. Also, a diet low in nutrients means that the tissues of the mouth are unable to resist infections.

At the popular Artedental clinic, located in Puerto de la Cruz and known for its innovative treatments of dental implantology, the staff put a strong emphasis on prevention from food. Amaya Sáez, manager of the clinic, expresses her solid conviction that a healthy diet would save many patients headaches and toothaches.

Among the advice provided by Artedental’s staff, it stands out, for example, the consumption of water or the limitation of “snacking”.

“If the food is concentrated at certain times, this causes an increase in saliva that helps clean the gums and moisturize the mouth,” explains Víctor Cubillo, medical director of the Puerto centre. “However, if you decide to eat between meals, it is best to avoid foods and drinks with high sugar content and choose healthy foods such as raw fruits or vegetables, which also help strengthen our teeth.”

The American Dental Association gives a list of foods that help improve oral health, such as calcium enriched tofu, green leafy vegetables, almonds or yogurt, as they provide significant amounts of calcium. Foods high in protein, such as fish, provide phosphorus. And both calcium and phosphorus protect tooth enamel. On the other hand, fruits and vegetables with a high content of water and fibre help to cleanse the mouth and stimulate saliva, essential to eliminate acids.

This institution recommends avoiding sweets, candy, cookies or cakes because, in addition to not offering nutritional values, they contain sugars that adhere to the teeth. Likewise, and like many other institutions related to oral health, it recommends first reducing the consumption of sugary beverages such as soft drinks, and moderation in the consumption of coffee, industrial juices or tea with sugar. On the other hand, the consumption of citrus foods can affect the enamel of the teeth, and therefore it is advisable to have them before brushing or as part of a meal and not alone.

Luckily, governments have begun to take preventive measures to educate populations on consumption. The Spanish Agency for Consumer Affairs, Food Safety and Nutrition (AECOSAN) has signed with the Spanish Federation of Food and Beverage Industries (FIAB) the “Collaboration Plan for the Improvement of the Composition of Food and Beverages and other measures 2017- 2020 “to reduce the content of salt, sugars and fats by ten per cent over the next three years, by applying to more than 3,500 products in the shopping basket such as salty snacks, soft drinks, pastries, breakfast cereals, creams , meat products, biscuits, ice cream, fruit nectars, special packaged bread, prepared dishes, dairy products and sauces.

However, there is still a long way to go. Certain healthy foods are still luxury items. Quinoa, tofu or spelt flour are products that a large family cannot include in the shopping basket due to their prices. Food continues to be a symbol of status, and obesity and the consumption of unhealthy foods nowadays denote economic poverty in many cases. It continues to be a fundamental task for governments to educate and allow their population to access and know the immense variety of healthy products available today.