If you want to improve your health, improve your diet. The food you eat is the vital building blocks your body uses to build and maintain itself. If these blocks aren’t compatible with the body or even downright harmful, they can undermine your oral and overall health.
However, it’s not always easy to know where the problem is. It’s hard to know what foods might be problematic if you’re not actually sure what foods you’re eating.
During your appointments, we’ll often ask about your diet, and we typically find that most people misrepresent their diet in one of three ways. Some people feel on the spot so they only tell us about all the good things they’ve been eating: the food they think will make us praise their diet. Other people feel like they’re in confession: they’ll tell us about all their “food sins. “ And some people just say they can’t remember what they had for breakfast, let alone what they ate regularly in the last six months.
These responses don’t help us guide you to a healthier diet. However, there is a simple solution to all three of these responses: keep a food journal. Then, once we know what you’re really eating, we can make recommendations about how to eat healthier.
How to Keep a Food Journal
These days, the easiest way to keep a food journal is by using one of the many food journal apps out there. Most of these are focused on dieting for weight loss, so they can sometimes have a few distractions, but they can still be useful for tracking foods that damage oral health or disrupt your system.
This is very convenient for people who have their phone with them most of the time. Heck, many people are already taking pictures of their food to post to social media, so it’s not much of a change to post it to the food journal–although you have to remember to post everything and not just the impressive, healthy foods you want to show off!
But other people might find a food journal app isn’t a good match. Maybe mealtime is when you get your time away from your screen and you don’t want to disrupt that. Or maybe you just don’t have your phone with you that much. Or maybe the phone is too much of a distraction. If that’s the case, it’s easy enough to keep a physical food journal. Get a dedicated journal, and use it just for keeping track of food.
Record All the Right Information
Keeping track of food for oral health or overall health is a little different than keeping track for weight loss. It’s not as important that you keep track of the exact calorie or carb counts. It’s actually more important that you record the ingredients, because this can give us a clue about certain food allergies. Make sure you are recording:
When, where, and why you’re eating and drinking
What you’re eating
How much you’re eating
What you’re drinking
Significant effects that might be related to eating (such as mood changes)
Important things to look out for include sugars and acids in foods. These can be very damaging to your oral health, and they can account for why you need more restorative dentistry like fillings and crowns than you’d like.
It’s also important to understand why you make some diet choices. Comfort foods can be particularly damaging to your health because they can be sugary and full of inflammatory ingredients. Are there certain activities that are associated with bad diet choices? Maybe you notice you’re snacking a lot in the afternoon because you’re tired–a clear warning sign that you might have sleep apnea.
How We Use This Data
Once we get a chance to look at an accurate measure of what you’re eating, we might use it to recommend changes in your diet or in your oral healthcare routine. Not everyone has to brush after lunch, for example, but looking at your diet, we might recommend it. Or maybe just a thorough rinse with water.
We might also recommend diet changes, such as reducing snacking or controlling sugar cravings. We know that might sound like a bummer, but so is needing extensive restorative dentistry.
We may also recommend other tests. If, for example, your diet indicates you have serious daytime sleepiness, we might encourage you to talk to a doctor about sleep apnea. Or maybe we’ll recommend testing for food allergies.
The point is, the more we know, the more we can do for your oral health. And that makes a food journal a good first step in improving the health of your mouth and your body.