Americans have become more aware of good nutrition over the past few decades. Eating healthy not only helps you maintain a healthy weight, but it also supports a strong immune system, builds healthy bones, and helps prevent premature aging.
What you eat and drink also has a significant impact on your oral health. Healthy teeth and gums not only improve your smile, but they can have a long-term impact on your overall health. Fortunately, many of the same foods and beverages that support a healthy body also help prevent the development of dental plaque that contributes to gum disease and tooth decay.
Here are some of the top foods for keeping your teeth and gums in good shape:
Raw fruits and veggies:
Raw produce is not only incredibly nutritious and low in calories, the “crunch” factor helps produce saliva. Saliva acts as a buffer in your mouth, discouraging the development of bacteria and teeth plaque. The water content in fresh produce can also dilute any sugars that these foods contain, providing further protection against cavities.
Raw onions are a great addition to salads, wraps, and sandwiches. They also contain compounds that can provide natural protection against the development of plaque.
These Asian mushrooms have become more commonplace in American supermarkets. They are not only tasty but, like onions, contain compounds that can protect your teeth and gums.
You’ve probably heard that gum isn’t good for teeth. That’s because traditional gum contains a lot of sugar, which leads to plaque formation. Sugar-free gum, on the other hand, doesn’t feed the bacteria that presents a threat to your oral health. Plus, the act of chewing prevents dry mouth, keeping your breath fresh and your teeth clean.
Like the other foods mentioned here, snacking on cheese can increase saliva production, which not only keeps you comfortable but improves oral health. Cheese also contains calcium, which is good for keeping your teeth and bones healthy.
Water is the best beverage for keeping your mouth healthy. It keeps you hydrated, has no calories, and does not stain your teeth. In addition, rinsing with water after meals can help loosen food particles that get between your teeth and contribute to plaque formation.
Foods That Can Cause Problems for Your Teeth
Some foods and beverages can have a negative impact on your oral health or the appearance of your teeth. In some cases, these foods and beverages are not necessarily unhealthy but can stain teeth, wear away enamel, or contribute to plaque buildup.
Coffee, tea, and red wine: All of these beverages are delicious and can have some health benefits when consumed in moderation. However, they can also contribute to staining or yellowing of your teeth. Tea, even green tea, can be a particular culprit as a compound called tannin can accelerate staining.
If you enjoy coffee tea or red wine, plan to rinse your mouth as soon as possible after drinking these beverages. You may also want to carry a disposable, pre-pasted toothbrush with you so that you can remove any residue from your teeth soon after consumption.
Soft drinks: Sugary soft drinks are the worst culprit, as the citric acid and sugar can both wear away tooth enamel and promote unhealthy mouth bacteria. Sugar-free sodas may be a better option, although the citric acid remains a problem.
Raisins: Raisins are both high in sugar and sticky. Sticky food can easily get caught between your teeth, eventually leading to cavities between your teeth. In fact, this is a problem presented by all dried fruits. If you enjoy these snacks, be sure to floss and brush after eating them.
Lemons, limes, and oranges: Citrus fruits are high in citric acid, which can irritate membranes inside your mouth while also eating away at enamel. These fruits are also nutritious and delicious, however, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t enjoy them as long as you brush your teeth afterward.
Candy: The sugar in candy feeds unhealthy mouth bacteria which in turn produce the acids that cause plaque. In addition, many candies are sticky, which means they can get trapped between teeth and are difficult to remove, even with brushing and flossing. Switch to sugar-free candies or make candy consumption an occasional treat.
High-starch foods: Some foods that are high in starch, such as white rice, white bread, and crackers, may contribute to tooth decay. This is because the starch can act like sugar in your mouth and feeds plaque causing bacteria. Switching to whole-grain products, or getting your carbohydrates mainly from low starch can help you improve your oral health.
Minimizing the Negative Impact of Some Foods
Reading a list like this can be disheartening, particularly if you find that some of your favorite foods may be contributing to oral health problems. Fortunately, you can minimize the negative impact of some of these foods by doing the following:
- Develop good oral health practices such as brushing your teeth at least twice a day for at least two minutes at a time. Floss at least once a day before going to bed.
- Limiting your enjoyment of foods that cause problems while increasing the number of good foods and beverages in your diet.
- Sip plain water throughout the day to keep your mouth moist and to rinse away food particles, acids, and sugars.
- See your dentist at least once a year for professional cleaning and examination.
- If you are already coping with stained or yellowing teeth, talk to your dentist about options. There are many treatments available, including tooth whitening, that can improve the look of your smile.
Make a Dental Appointment Today
Contact your neighborhood Gentle Dental office today to schedule an appointment if you haven’t done so in a while. We offer evening and weekend hours for your convenience, and we strive to make our services as gentle on your wallet as possible. We accept most insurance plans, as well as major credit cards. Financing and discount plans are also available.