You are what you eat, and that phrase holds true not just for the health of your body but your teeth as well. Admit it! Many of us are guilty for eating more than our share of candy bars and sugary drinks during our childhood and even well into our 20s and 30s. Eventually, all those years of packing on the sugary calories not only affects our waistlines but our teeth. You may think cavities and tooth sensitivity may never go away, but in fact it’s never too late to start making positive changes to our diet that not only taste great but keep our teeth healthy!
To understand why teeth decay, one must understand that every time you drink and eat starchy, sugary foods, you’re not only feeding your stomach, but the millions of tiny bacteria inside your mouth. The bacteria form a thin, invisible layer of plaque that covers every surface of your teeth. The sugars and starches that come in contact with the plaque create acids that harm teeth long after you’ve finished eating. Over time, that acid wears down the teeth’s enamel and causes cavities to form. That same sticky film of plaque also damages your teeth by forming various toxins that attack the gums and bones which support the teeth.
Want to know what to eat for a healthy smile? Here’s a list of food and drinks you should add to your diet to help combat plaque, and several others you should avoid.
Foods That Are Good For Your Teeth
|1. Fruits and Vegetables – The American Dental Association recommends eating foods that contain lots of fibre because they have a detergent-like effect on the mouth which helps to clean away plaque. Fruits and veggies also stimulate the release of saliva, which aside from brushing and flossing, is your best defense against cavities. These foods are also beneficial because of their high water content which acts to dilute the sugars they contain. It is recommended that acidic fruits, such as citruses, tomatoes, and lemons, should be consumed as part of a larger meal in order to minimize the effects of the acids they contain.|
|2. Dairy Products, Nuts and Meats – Yogurt, cheese, milk and all other dairy products are beneficial for teeth because they contain calcium and phosphates, minerals which can be naturally redeposited into tooth enamel after they have been removed by acid decay. Dairy products not only help to produce saliva, but some cheeses (such as cheddar) contain alkali which works to neutralize acids in your mouth. Nuts, chicken, and other meats also contain many of these same elements needed to remineralize your teeth|
|3. Green and Black Teas – Both these types of teas contain polyphenols that either kill or suppress plaque bacteria. Polyphenol substances prevent their growth, thereby preventing them from producing tooth-attacking acid. Additionally, the water used to brew your tea may also be a source of fluoride.|
|4. Sugarless Gum – Sugarless chewing gum is great for removing food particles stuck in tiny crevices in your mouth and for generating saliva. Twenty minutes after eating, the saliva in your mouth begins to neutralize the acids and enzymes that attack your teeth and helps to replace calcium, phosphate, and other minerals which are lost in the enamel.|
|5. Foods Containing Fluoride– Fluoridated drinking water has dramatically helped to reduce tooth decay. You get extra fluoride in your diet from powdered juices (make sure they don’t contain a lot of sugar) and dehydrated soups. Poultry products, powdered cereals, seafood and many other types of commercially prepared foods also contain lots of fluoride.|
Foods That Are Bad For Your Teeth
|1. Soft Drinks – Carbonated soft drinks are the leading source of added sugar amongst teens and children. Aside from being laden with sugar, many soft drinks contain acids that erode tooth enamel like phosphoric acid and citric acid. Try to limit your consumption of sugary soft drinks as well as coffee and tea with added sugar, and avoid day-long sipping of these drinks which exposes your teeth to constant decay causing acids. If you can’t give up your coffee and tea, try using a straw to reduce the contact of the fluid with your teeth.|
|2. Baked Sweets – These culprits come in the form of cakes, cookies, muffins, pies, and pretzels. Condiments like pancake syrup and jam are also guilty because they stick to your teeth and provide a fuel source for unhealthy bacteria.|
|3. Starchy Foods – Starchy foods like soft breads, french fries, and potato chips pose a problem because they can easily get stuck and trapped in your teeth.|
|4. Hard Candies – Lollipops, hard candies, caramels, chocolate bars, mints and cough drops are all poor food choices because they contains large amounts of refined sugar. And bacteria love refined sugar!|
|5. Liquids That Dry Out Your Mouth – Alcohol and many types of medications may dry out your mouth, eliminating the beneficial effects of saliva. If you take medications which cause this problem, talk to your doctor or dentist about using fluoride rinses or fluoride gels to brush your teeth.|
How To Eat For A Healthy Mouth
It can be hard to give up the food you love, so if you do continue to eat sugary and starchy foods at least try to make them a small part of your main meals and reduce or altogether omit them as part of an in-between-meal snack. When you feel like you must have a snack, choose something nutritious and consider drinking a glass of water to wash out any food particles and acids. After your meal, chew sugarless gum to increase saliva flow. To reduce your sugar intake consider using sugar substitutes that look and taste like sugar, but don’t promote the growth of harmful bacteria. Erythritol, sorbitol, isomalt, saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, mannitol and sucralose are all examples of sugar substitutes that are available for you to use as a replacement in drinks and recipes. On food labels, if you look under sugars or carbohydrates, you can determine if the sugarless or sugar-free foods you are buying contain natural sweeteners or not by examining the ingredients label. If the words ends in ‘-ose’ (such as sucrose and fructose), this usually indicates the presence of a natural sweetener.