It really shouldn’t be a surprise to you that what you eat and drink has an effect on the state of your dental health. It matters to your heart, your brain, and the rest of your body, so why wouldn’t it matter to you teeth and gums as well?
Not only that, but there’s been a lot of research on how oral health is connected to overall well-being. And those studies are showing that an unhealthy mouth — gum disease in particular — can lead to serious systemic problems like heart disease, stroke, and even cancer.
So it’s really important to learn to eat in a way that promotes good dental health. Not only will that benefit your teeth and gums, but it will give you the best possible chance for a healthy body.
These Foods Promote Oral Health
Calcium is a mineral that is stored in your bones and teeth and that is critical for keeping them strong and healthy. Pregnant women need to consume plenty of this mineral, as it is important for the development of their baby’s teeth.
Minerals are continuously lost from your teeth in a process called demineralization. So it’s important to constantly replenish your supplies to keep decay at bay.
Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are excellent sources of calcium, as well as phosphorus and magnesium, both of which help your body absorb calcium. Milk is often fortified with vitamin D as well.
Plus, dairy products contain proteins called caseins, which bond together and form a layer over your tooth enamel that protects it from bacterial acid attacks.
Cheese may be especially beneficial. One study has shown that eating it raises the pH level of the mouth. A high-pH environment is inhospitable to the bacteria that produce enamel-destroying acids.
Vegetables like kale, spinach, watercress, and Swiss chard are good for you in so many ways. They are low in calories and delicious incorporated into main dishes, sides, appetizers, and dips. Change up your salad game with this bright and crunchy kale slaw.
These vegetables are loaded with tooth-strengthening calcium. So if you are vegan or can’t consume dairy for other reasons, it’s especially important to eat your greens.
The are also a good source of folic acid. This mineral has been shown to promote gum health by reducing inflammation and enabling gum tissue to resist the harmful effects of bacteria and plaque. It can also reduce bleeding in the gums.
Folic acid can be especially beneficial for pregnant women, who are prone to a hormone-induced gum problem called pregnancy gingivitis.
Raw Fruits & Vegetables
Munching on crunchy apples, carrot sticks, or celery is a great way to help keep your teeth clean between meals. They have a high water content, and their fibrous texture helps to stimulate the gums. The act of chewing them stimulates the production of cleansing saliva in your mouth. Even a small amount of sugar, like in apples, is outweighed by the benefits of these tooth-friendly snacks.
Get into the habit of drinking lots of plain H20. This is what you should reach for to quench your thirst throughout the day — not sugary soft drinks or sports drinks. Water keeps your body hydrated, rinses away food particles and bacteria, and dilutes damaging acids. If you don’t have one already, invest in a reusable bottle that you can keep filled with tap water and carry with you at all times.
These Foods Destroy Dental Health
Gummy & Sticky Sweets
Kids just love their gummy- and sticky-textured treats, from fruit snacks to taffy to gummy bears to chewy granola bars. But these are a nightmare for their teeth. It’s the combination of texture and sugar content that is so destructive. Because these foods are sticky, they get stuck in the grooves of the teeth and are difficult to remove. So there they stay all day, promoting the growth of bacteria, which generate acids that wear down the tooth enamel. And just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it’s better for the teeth. Raisins and other dried fruits are just as damaging as gummy bears.
Pretzels, Chips, & Other Carb-Heavy Snacks
These foods may not be obviously sweet, but they are pure carbohydrates. And when they break down in your mouth, they turn into sugar. When you snack on them throughout the day, you are subjecting your teeth to constant attacks by harmful acids.
In general, it’s best to keep your food intake to mealtimes. When you get into the habit of continuous snacking, a nasty film of bacteria forms on your teeth and your enamel never gets a break.
If you must snack, stick to tooth-friendly options like carrots with hummus, nuts, or an apple.
Oranges, limes, lemons, and other citrus fruits are loaded with nutrients and antioxidants, so we aren’t going to say you have to avoid them altogether. However, you should know that their acid content is destructive to your tooth enamel. So enjoy them in moderation, stick to whole fruits, not sugar-packed juices, and brush your teeth or rinse your mouth well with water after consumption.
When you sip soft drinks, juices, and sports drinks, you are basically drinking sugar — and in some cases, a big dose of enamel-destroying acid to go along with it. The liquified sugar settles into all of the nooks and grooves of the teeth, where it is a food source for an ever-growing hoard of bacteria. Especially concerning is that many people get into the dangerous habit of gulping these beverages every day, all day without thought. This creates a dangerous situation in which your tooth enamel is under continuous attack from bacterial acids.
And diet soft drinks don’t get a pass. Even if sugar free, they are filled with acids that have the same effect as the bacteria-produced type.
Understand the connection between diet and dental health, and your smile will be healthier and more beautiful. To schedule a cleaning and exam at Family Dental of Spokane Valley, fill out our online form or call our Spokane Valley, WA office at 509-850-3217.