As many Americans are looking for ways to be healthier, gaining good nutrition through the diet is always a topic of interest. In efforts to reduce consumption of fatty meats, a lot of people turn to foods that are high in proteins via seeds and legumes (beans and peas). These foods have wonderful nutritional value and should be part of a healthy diet.
As more and more people have transitioned to diets that are high in foods that contain phytic acid, scientists, doctors and dentists have noticed some trends in their health. And these trends do have the potential to affect oral health, too.
Phytic acid is a compound present in many grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. It is also present in smaller amounts in some fruits and vegetables.
Phytic acid is a molecule containing phosphorus (an essential mineral) that binds tightly to other molecules, creating compounds that are not easily absorbed by the human body.
Phosphorus is an important nutrient for the body’s healthy functioning. This mineral is essential to maintaining healthy bones and teeth, as well as nerves and muscles. In the mouth, phosphorus combines with calcium to form the compound calcium phosphate. Calcium phosphate plays an important role in keeping enamel and its underlying dentin hard and strong.
Because phytic acid causes phosphorus to bind to other molecules to form an unabsorbable compound, those who have consistently high levels of phytic acid in the diet may not absorb the right amounts of essential minerals, even when they eat a healthy diet!
For the overall health, this means that a person with high consumption of foods loaded in phytic acid could suffer from nutritional deficiencies. The most commonly affected minerals are iron, zinc, and calcium.
This affects the overall health of a person in a variety of ways. Iron deficiency can lead to a state of anemia. Zinc deficiencies can impair the immune system, making a person more susceptible to illnesses. Calcium deficiencies affects the strength of our teeth and bones.
The way that phytic acid affects the absorption of minerals from the diet can also affect the health of the teeth. The minerals calcium, phosphate, and fluoride have an essential role in maintaining enamel and dentin that are strong and resistant to the attacks of acid produced by cavity-causing bacteria.
Someone who consistently eats a diet with very high levels of phytic acid may experience the effects of mineral deficiency in his or her teeth. In order to understand this relationship, you must first understand how cavities develop and the ways in which your body fights them.
Our mouths are full of bacteria. Some are good, and some are bad (disease causing). The particular bacteria that live in dental plaque and cause cavities are Streptococcus mutans. This bacteria ingests (eats) simple carbohydrates and produces acid as a waste product. It is this acid that damages enamel, enabling bacteria to penetrate the protective coating of the teeth.
The initial stages of decay involve the process of demineralization. As the acid produced by bacteria remains in contact with enamel or dentin, it softens and weakens the hard tooth structure by removing minerals.
Demineralization is bad. It is the beginning of decay.
We can actually interrupt the process of decay in its early stages by reversing demineralization with the opposite process: remineralization. Remineralization involves adding essential minerals back into the affected hard tooth structure. Most of the minerals added come from our saliva.
In order for our bodies to have the right minerals in our saliva for this remineralization to occur, we must be absorbing them from our diets. When a diet high in phytic acid impairs our absorption of calcium and phosphate, we may suffer a deficiency of these minerals, making us unable to remineralize our teeth.
Because of a reduced remineralization potential due to a lack of minerals, these people may suffer from a much higher risk for cavities than someone with a healthy mineral intake. Their enamel and dentin will be less able to repair itself from the attacks of acid-producing bacteria, and cavities are more likely to develop.
This proneness to cavities is especially dangerous for those with exposed teeth roots as the result of receding gums. Roots do not have a protective coating of enamel, and their dentin is softer and more susceptible to acid demineralization. Root decay spreads faster and is more difficult for your dentist to treat.
We have great news for you! The effect that phytic acid has on the absorption of minerals is relatively immediate. That means that it impairs your body’s ability to absorb certain minerals when you are eating those foods high in phytic acid. It does not have a lingering effect, impairing your body’s ability to absorb those minerals all the time.
You can overcome the effect of phytic acid on mineral absorption by obtaining minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium when you are not consuming grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
When it comes to protecting your teeth, you can also increase their potential for mineral uptake (remineralization) by adding minerals in your oral care products. Saliva is the primary way in which we add minerals back into the teeth. If there are not enough minerals in our saliva, we might need to supplement these minerals topically by using particular toothpastes, mouthwashes and gels.
A great compound for remineralization is Amorphous Calcium Phosphate, or ACP. This product is available in some oral care gels and toothpastes from your dentist. You can also easily find products with fluoride, one of the most powerful remineralizing agents available today. Many over-the-counter toothpastes and mouthrinses contain fluoride in levels specifically measured to provide optimal enamel health.
Ask your dentist for a product recommendation if you know that your diet is high in phytic acids. We want you to maintain great dental health while you are getting the best nutrition.
Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a consultation with one of our dental experts. We love helping our patients make good nutrition choices to maintain great oral and overall health. Oral health is an essential part of overall health!