Food Ingredients Promoting Oral Health

European Journal of Nutrition. 2012;51(suppl.2):S9-S48. Commissioned by the Functional Foods Task Force.

Since the oral cavity is the entrance for food and the commencement of the digestive tract, it is obvious that there is some local interaction between food consumption and the status of oral tissues. In modern nutrition, the most important influence of food on oral health is the metabolism of fermentable carbohydrates to organic acids by acidogenic bacteria, which are organized in oral biofilms at the tooth surface. These acids dissolve the inorganic components of enamel and dentine, and if the healing potential of saliva is overstrained, dental caries is the consequence. This happens if fermentable carbohydrates are consumed too frequently. Consequently, caries could potentially be prevented by a reduction in the frequency of sugar intake. However, from a public health perspective, this has been shown to be a more theoretical possibility than a practical option. On the other hand, specific food ingredients/constituents can substantially contribute to healthy teeth since they can be delivered simultaneously or replace the harmful agent. In conclusion, food plays an important role in oral health, both in causing and preventing oral diseases. The current status of knowledge in this field is summarized in the present supplement of the European Journal of Nutrition.

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