We’ve all been taught how critical it is to brush and floss our teeth regularly if we want to keep them healthy. That’s a no-brainer. And we also know we need to limit certain things like sugary candy and soda to prevent damage. But did you know there are foods that can protect your smile? It’s true.
Scientists say crunchy fruits and vegetables serve as nature’s toothbrush. Think carrots, celery, and apples. All that chewing disturbs dental plaque, washes away bad bacteria, and stimulates your gums. Any foods high in water content and fiber, like fruits and vegetables, stimulate saliva, which helps wash away food particles and neutralize acids and prevent decay. They also help balance the sugar you may be ingesting from other foods.
What is enamel, and why is it so important? Simply put, it’s the thin, hard mineral coating that covers your teeth and protects them from decay. It’s one of the strongest and hardest materials in your body, but it can become weakened and eroded from the acids and sugars in certain foods and drinks. Once the enamel is gone, it can’t be regenerated.
Look for calcium-rich foods for your teeth, too. They can help strengthen your tooth enamel. Low-fat cheese, fat-free or low-fat milk, and plain yogurt are all good options. Cheese can be critical in reducing the risk of decay by reducing the acid levels in your mouth. It’s important to add low-fat dairy, along with dark, leafy greens and almonds, to your diet. The dark leafy greens carry a huge helping of folic acid, which may help treat gum disease.
Other foods that protect your enamel include phosphorus-rich options, including eggs, beans, and seafood. Studies show these can help build up minerals in teeth that have lost nutrients through lesions and other damage.
Vitamin D may also help strengthen your jaw and teeth, and vitamin C research shows it’s essential to gum health. Think foods like tomatoes, oranges, peppers, broccoli, and potatoes for good doses. Just remember to limit the amounts of certain citrus and tomatoes since they can be highly acidic and can also cause problems. Experts suggest avoiding eating them by themselves, so try to eat them as part of a meal or cooked down to reduce the acidity. A side note: Fresh fruits are preferred over dried fruits because those may have a large amount of sugar, salt, or other preservatives.
As we said earlier, protein-rich foods like eggs, fish, meat, and poultry are all important because they help protect the enamel on your teeth and improve bone density. They help repair tissue and build bone and are an important component in bone mineral density, or BMD. Healthy BMD indicates that there is enough material in your bones to support your bodily structure and prevent fractures or breaks. Low levels are often associated with osteoporosis. Poor dental health is typically characterized by inflamed or weakened periodontal ligaments and bone loss or weakening in the jaw, which mimics the damage caused by osteoporosis. That leads scientists to believe there may be a link between BMD and poor dental health, as well. This means it’s important to also get plenty of protein in your diet. The more protein you get, the more support you provide for your periodontal structure needed for good dental health.
It’s important to choose fresh foods over packaged or processed foods, and remember, in general, food that’s good for your body’s health is most likely to be healthy for your teeth.
As many times as you may have been told as a kid not to chew gum, it turns out that the sugarless options are very good at boosting saliva secretion and clearing away potentially harmful bacteria.
As for beverages, your best option is basic h2O. Water, especially fluoridated water, comes with zero calories and zero sugar, which leads to zero tooth decay. It also helps flush away food particles from hard-to-reach places and promotes saliva production. There’s no better recipe for keeping teeth clean and bad bacteria at bay. And if you drink it with ice, be sure not to crunch it. That can break or crack the enamel on your teeth and lead to cavities.
Other potential problems include how often you eat and how much. The amount and frequency of foods you eat, or beverages you drink, can be problematic if they’re highly sugary, starchy, or acidic. The combinations of foods you consume and the order that you eat them in can also play a role. It’s important to pay attention to the texture and makeup of the food, including whether it’s solid, takes a while to dissolve or is sticky. If you’re a snacker who typically eats between meals, that can also put you more at risk, especially if you don’t brush or floss after you eat. Finally, existing medical conditions, including acid reflux, can weaken the teeth and increase the risk of cavities.
So, if you want to protect your smile, watch what you put into your mouth, and take good care of those teeth. They’ll keep you smiling for years to come.