You probably know the basics of good oral health. Avoid excessive sweets. Brush your teeth after meals. Floss every night.

ButTeeth like most people, you may not realize what an important role diet plays in the well-being of your teeth and gums. In particular, the foods you eat directly affect the bacteria living in your mouth. When certain types of bacteria thrive, they can cause a host of dental problems.

Now, you shouldn't be alarmed by the idea of bacteria living in your mouth. No matter how religiously you brush and floss, your mouth will have bacteria. However, you can alter your diet to limit the damage that bacteria can do. And it all comes down to your consumption of carbohydrates and protein.

Excessive Carbohydrates Nurture Cavity-Causing Bacteria

When you feed them carbohydrates, cavity-causing bacteria multiply and produce acids (low pH compounds). These acids, in turn, bore holes (i.e. cavities) in your teeth. You shouldn't, however, remove all carbohydrates from your diet because that can also cause problems.

Protein (and No Carbohydrates) Can Cause Gum Disease

If you instead tend to eat a lot of protein (and not enough carbohydrates), you will have a basic (alkaline) mouth. In this case, another problem will arise: gum disease. The bacteria in your mouth that consume protein produce bases (high pH compounds). Base-producing bacteria break down your gum and bone structure — a process known as gum disease.

The Solution: A Balanced Diet

To combat both cavities and gum disease, you should maintain a diet that strikes a balance between carbohydrates and protein. When your diet nurtures a healthy mix of both bacterial groups, they will tend to neutralize each other. As a result, you should have no significant dental problems.

In other words, balance your diet to balance your mouth's bacteria.

Of course, even with a balanced diet, you might get the rare cavity or instance of gum disease. But you'll be much less likely to have any problems that cause you tremendous grief.