Your body is a complicated machine; the foods you eat affect everything from your tissue and organs to your bones and even your teeth and gums. Of course, choosing too many sugar-filled snacks and sodas puts you at risk for tooth decay, but our diet impacts our oral health in ways you’ve probably never imagined.
Tooth decay is the most common childhood disease and for many of us, the problem stays relevant well into adulthood. The question is, if there are foods we consume that are bad for our teeth, surely there must be foods that are good for our teeth? This article explores what foods can improve your dental condition.
HOW TOOTH DECAY HAPPENS
Plaque is an invisible film made up of bacteria that develops on your teeth every day. It’s the prominent cause of gum disease, leading to damage of the soft tissue in your mouth. If left long enough, plaque can destroy the bone that supports your teeth, which leads to tooth loss. Think of tooth decay as a warning sign that tooth loss is just around the corner.
THE BAD FOODS
Foods that contain sugar contribute to tooth decay. Limiting the amount of sugar you consume, especially from chocolate, candies, and baked goods is a great start. Beverages can also be a source of high sugar. Soft drinks are the first thing that comes to mind when talking about sugary drinks but wine and alcoholic beverages, sport drinks, sweetened tea, and coffee can also cause damage.
Vinegars can be high in sugar, more concerning though is the acidity. Salad dressings and pickles are therefore high in acid which can wear away the enamel. However, it’s not necessary to avoid all acidity. Citrus fruits, for example, are highly acidic, but they’re also a part of a balanced, healthy diet and as you’ll read later on, are actually good for our teeth. If drinking orange juice, or lemon water, use a straw to help bypass your teeth. You also want to be sure to not brush your teeth immediately after, which makes them vulnerable to abrasion. Instead, just rinse your mouth out with water so the acids and sugars aren’t sitting on your teeth for long.
Another food you’ll want to limit is pasta. Don’t get me wrong, for me, cutting out pasta is almost as hard as cutting out chocolate. There is a double whammy of damage done to your teeth though, especially when you’re indulging in spaghetti. Not only is the sauce acidic, which wears down your enamel, but the sugar and carbs in the noodle also promote bacteria growth which causes plaque, cavities, and tooth decay.
THE GOOD FOODS
Healthy teeth and gums are necessary for healthy living. Fortunately, the same foods that are good for your heart, bones, and organs are good for your teeth. Taking a look at some important nutrients you want to include in your diet…
- PROTEIN: Helps tooth Choose lean proteins from chicken, or beans.
- CALCIUM: Helps tooth structure, may also reinforce enamel remineralization. Almond milk is a great source, along with broccoli, bok choy, and soybeans.
- VITAMIN C: Maintains the stability of periodontal ligaments. Citrus fruits, strawberries, and peppers are a good choice.
- VITAMIN D: May reinforce enamel remineralization. You’ll find enough in oily fish, red meat, or egg yolks.
- OMEGA 3: Helps reduce inflammation in the mouth and gums. Eating salmon, nuts, or chia seeds will make a big difference
- PROBIOTICS: Reduces gingivitis and plaque, preventing the growth of pathogens in the oral cavity. Try a probiotic yogurt or kefir, sauerkraut and other fermented foods are popular sources, too.
Including as many of these foods into your diet as possible, plus brushing and flossing daily will help ensure a healthy happy mouth. There is one more important ingredient we need to mention though; WATER! Water is one of the most important things we can give our body, it also helps our teeth. By drinking plenty of water with food and between meals, you’re helping to ensure food particles, sugar, bacteria, and more aren’t sticking to your teeth or gums, which will go a long way in maintaining a healthy mouth.