If you are like most people, your visits to see your dentist–even one as patient-friendly as Dr. Kardon–are often marked with some anxiety. It’s one thing to get your teeth cleaned regularly, but additional visits to repair decayed or broken teeth are sometimes uncomfortable and expensive.
The best ways to avoid those extra appointments are first to maintain a good home oral hygiene program for your teeth and then to eat a healthy diet.
So, is it true that we are what we eat and drink?
The Relationship Between Your Diet and Your Dental Health
Not only can your mouth reveal important things about your overall health, but there is a strong relationship between your diet and your oral health.
The American Dental Association states that “frequent consumption of acidic food and beverages is associated with an increased risk of erosive tooth wear.” In fact, the Association says that “the most significant source of acid for tooth erosion is the diet.”
More specifically, eating nutrient-rich foods representing all the food groups promotes healthy teeth and gums. A balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, calcium-rich foods, proteins, and whole grains promotes a healthy mouth and body. On the other hand, sugars increase your risk of developing cavities and should be limited in both foods and beverages.
So, now you may be wondering what are the best foods for your teeth and what are the worst? We’ve got you covered:
Best Foods and Drinks For Your Teeth
When you open the refrigerator, here are some of the best choices to protect your teeth while satisfying your hunger:
Cheese, Milk, and Yogurt
Cheese is low in sugar and high in calcium so it’s an obvious choice. Calcium is a bone-builder, as it increases bone density. Cheese also contains a protein called casein which fortifies the enamel on your teeth. You’ll also find a high phosphate content in cheese, which helps balance the mouth’s pH levels and, in turn, preserves tooth enamel. Finally, saliva production is increased from chewing the cheese, thus washing the bacteria out of the mouth.
Your teeth love milk. It is rich in calcium and also lowers the acid levels in the mouth, which helps fight tooth decay.
Yogurt is packed with calcium but also probiotics that protect you against cavities, gum disease, and bad breath.
Water is by far the healthiest drink available. The benefits are numerous: Staying hydrated helps with the distribution of healthy nutrients throughout our bodies, gets rid of waste, keeps your muscles moving, and makes your skin glow.
Drinking water with fluoride, also known as “nature’s cavity fighter,” is one of the most helpful things you can do to prevent cavities. Water also washes food particles from your teeth and keeps your saliva levels high.
Leafy Greens (Spinach, Lettuce, Kale)
Leafy green vegetables are rich in calcium, folic acid, and many important vitamins and minerals that protect your teeth and provide a healthy diet. Crunchy fresh greens, used in salads and sandwiches, also help in cleaning your teeth.
Apples and Pears
An apple a day will help keep the dentist away. Acids left behind in your mouth are neutralized by eating apples or other hard fibrous fruits. They also help clean your teeth and increase salivation.
Though you should avoid sugary apple juice that may contribute to tooth decay. Instead, choose fresh apples because chewing their fibrous texture stimulates your gums, which reduces cavity-causing bacteria and increases the flow of saliva.
Raw pears also neutralize acids in your mouth that cause decay.
Other Good Foods to Choose
- Fatty fish and meats
- Cranberries and raisins
- Strawberries and other Vitamin C-rich berries
- Whole grains
- Sweet Potato
- Garlic and onions
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Coffee and tea
Finally, it is interesting to note that it matters when you eat certain foods and in what sequence. Eat acid-neutralizing foods after a sweet meal or dessert. This will prevent acid attacks on your teeth and will help prevent cavities. Some examples are milk, unsweetened tea, or cheese.
Also, don’t forget to drink plenty of water during and after meals to wash away sugar and acids left behind by food.
Now that you know what to eat, here are some foods to avoid in order to protect your teeth.
Worst Foods and Drinks for Your Teeth
Sugar is destructive to tooth enamel. If your diet includes too many sugary foods and drinks, you are providing the perfect environment in your mouth for plaque to attack the enamel. Here are some specific foods and beverages to avoid:
Sour candies contain a great deal of sugar and a variety of acids, stay in your mouth a long time, and are often very sticky.
Bread and potato chips
The starches in bread are broken down into sugar by your saliva. The food becomes gummy and sticks to the crevices between teeth. Also, the acids produced from chips stay in your mouth for a while, so they must be brushed and flossed away quickly.
Many dried fruits — apricots, prunes, figs, and raisins, for example— are sticky. They cling to teeth and leave sugar behind.
Alcohol dries your mouth out. Without the necessary saliva, food sticks to your teeth and leads to cavities if not brushed away quickly.
These drinks are much more destructive than most people realize, even if they are “diet.” Carbonated sodas cause plaque to produce acids that attack tooth enamel. If you drink soda all day, you are coating your teeth in this acid. You will also be producing less saliva to wash away the food you eat. Dark-colored sodas will also stain your teeth.
It’s actually not the ice; it’s chewing the ice. This can cause chips and cracks in tooth enamel, broken teeth, or loose crowns.
The acid content in citrus erodes enamel, making teeth vulnerable to decay. Even squeezing a lemon or lime into water adds acid to a drink. The acid can also bother mouth sores.
A Healthy Plan for Your Teeth
Limiting bad food for your teeth and increasing the amount you consume of good food for your teeth are both within your control. As you can see, there is a good variety of foods and drinks that are very beneficial for your oral health.