Most people take care of their teeth and gums through daily brushing, flossing, and regular dental checkups. But even if you have a perfect oral hygiene routine, your teeth and gums might not be as healthy as you’d like. Why? Your diet. According to the American Dental Association, oral health is one of the first areas to decline when diet is not what it should be. Time and again we’ve all heard that sugar is bad for our teeth, so we use the “avoidance” method of enjoying it in small doses. But what foods should we eat in order to boost oral health? We’ve put together this list to improve your diet and the health of your mouth, so get out a pen and get ready to do some grocery shopping!
10 of the best foods (and drinks) for healthy teeth and gums
Water, especially fluoridated water, is the best drink for oral health. The United States is one of the few countries that adds fluoride to its water. Fluoride is “nature’s cavity fighter” and helps make teeth resilient to acid attacks that cause cavities. Water not only keeps you hydrated but also mixes with saliva to help your mouth fight plaque. Additionally, water swishes away those food particles left behind. So fill up that water bottle and get to sipping!
2) Dairy products- milk, cheese, yogurt
Milk and other dairy products are low in sugar, but they also contain protein and are rich in calcium, a mineral that keeps teeth strong. Milk lowers acid levels in your mouth, which helps to fight tooth decay. Cheese, like milk, also lowers the acid level in your mouth. Additionally, chewing hard, aged cheese increases saliva production, which washes off bacteria. Like cheese and milk, yogurt is high in calcium and protein. The probiotics found in yogurt benefit your gums by crowding out bad bacteria. Be sure to choose a plain variety with no added sugar.
3) Lean proteins- meat, fish, eggs
Meats contain arginine, an important amino acid that is the building block for protein. High amounts are found in turkey and chicken breast, and pork loin. Red meat is loaded in phosphorus, a mineral that protects tooth enamel. Fish, especially wild salmon and tuna, are rich in phosphorus and Vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium. Egg yolks are also a fantastic source of protein and Vitamin D.
4) Fruits- kiwis, apples, berries
Kiwis have one of the highest concentrations of Vitamin C, more than oranges. Without Vitamin C, the collagen in your gums breaks down. As a result, your gums become sensitive and more susceptible to periodontal disease. Apples are packed with antioxidants, high in fiber and water, and chewing them produces saliva – the benefits previously mentioned. Berries are packed with antioxidants, which fight bacteria. Fresh cranberries are rich in polyphenols, which disrupt the formation of plaque. Strawberries are packed with Vitamin C and also contain a compound that naturally whitens teeth.
5) Leafy greens- spinach, broccoli, kale
Leafy greens are rich in calcium and lots of other important vitamins and minerals that your teeth and gums love. They also contain folic acid, an essential vitamin that preserves gum tissues and prevents gingivitis and periodontal disease. Unfortunately, cooking can decrease the amount of folic acid within a vegetable, so it’s important to get as much raw, leafy greens as possible. If you have trouble getting them into your diet, just throw some into a salad or add them to a smoothie.
6) Veggies- carrots and celery
Like apples, raw carrots are crunchy and full of fiber, and they also increase saliva production. Carrots are also a great source of Vitamin A, which helps maintain saliva and keeps tissues healthy. Like carrots, chewing celery also produces saliva and is another source of Vitamin A and C. Additionally, its natural abrasiveness can scrape away food particles and bacteria from your teeth.
7) Tea- black and green
Black tea contains polyphenols (mentioned above) that attack harmful bacteria in the mouth that cause gum disease and cavities. Green tea contains compounds that kill the bacteria leading to plaque. While a routine intake of black and green tea can help promote healthy teeth and gums, it’s best to drink it unsweetened.
8) Nuts- almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews
Nuts are full of health benefits for your teeth. Chewing them stimulates saliva production, and they are packed with calcium and phosphorous, which help prevent tooth decay. Additionally, nuts that are low in carbs don’t add to your risk of cavities. Almonds, Brazil nuts, and cashews are your best choices here.
Onions are known as a high-profile superfood. When eaten raw, they have powerful antibacterial properties which make them terrific for oral health. Chopping them up for your salad is a great way to add them to your diet.
10) Sugarless Gum
After you eat those onions, you’ll want something for your breath. Gum is widely-known to produce saliva. If chewed after eating, the increased saliva can wash away the acids that are produced when food is broken down by the bacteria in plaque on your teeth. Overtime, acid can lead to tooth decay. Chewing gum for twenty minutes following meals can help prevent this. However, gum is not a substitute for brushing and flossing and remember to get the sugarless kind.
Your diet makes a difference when it comes to oral health. Fill it with the items on our list, but don’t forget the basics of brushing, flossing, and regular dental checkups.
If you’re in the Memphis area and are looking for a dental practice to help you achieve better oral health overall, look no further than Cooley DDS. We can help you get back on track with your oral health by scheduling an appointment, and our friendly staff is able to answer any questions you may have about how to better take care of your teeth and gums. Make sure to stop by our Germantown location or give us a call at 901.754.3117.