You achieve good oral health by brushing and flossing twice a day and visiting your dentist twice a year. However, your diet sets the foundation for your oral health, and if you eat well, you are much less inclined to gum disease, tooth decay, and other oral health issues. Your diet should emphasize nutrient-rich foods, limit your intake of empty calories, and boast a wide range of colors when it comes to fruits and vegetables. Achieve that, and you will be eating well for your oral health and your overall health, but let us examine some specific foods and drinks to show how they directly benefit your teeth and gums.
The value of hydration for your oral health—and your systemic health—can not be overstated. Water is the healthiest drink available to you and should be your main beverage. In fact, many doctors and dentists recommend having a water bottle on hand at all times so that you can sip water whenever you are thirsty or have a snack. In addition to distributing nutrients and facilitating waste removal, water is important to oral health because it promotes saliva production and washes away bad bacteria.
Dairy Products: Milk, Cheese and Yogurt
A number of scientific studies, including a prominent paper published in the journal General Dentistry in 2013, have linked cheese and other dairy products to tooth decay prevention. Cheese is a fantastic food for your oral health because it is high in calcium and low in sugar. It contains the protein casein, which is known to strengthen tooth enamel, as well as phosphate, which helps to neutralize acids in the mouth. Cheese is also effective in that it encourages saliva production, which washes food particles away.
Nothing beats water when it comes to liquids that are good for your teeth, but milk is a solid runner-up. It is loaded with calcium, contains phosphorous, and is fortified with vitamin D. Calcium is important for teeth health, and phosphorus and vitamin D make calcium absorption more effective and efficient. Like cheese, milk helps to balance the pH levels in your mouth. Yogurt provides these benefits too and is loaded with probiotics that aid digestion and inhibit bad breath, gum disease, and tooth decay.
Vegetables—and crunchy veggies in particular—are beneficial to your oral health because they require a lot of chewing that cleans teeth surfaces and encourages you to salivate more, which cleans the mouth as well. Crunchy vegetables tend to contain a lot of water too, which is good for you for the reasons discussed earlier. Additionally, vegetables are packed with vitamins and other nutrients that your teeth and gums, and the rest of your body need. When cooking vegetables, aim to preserve as much crunch as possible, which is why lightly steaming veggies is such a healthy option. Raw carrots and celery are especially good choices for the nutrients they contain and their ability to clean your teeth.
Greens like kale, lettuce, and spinach are rich in calcium, folic acid, and many other minerals and vitamins that your teeth and gums need to thrive. These greens are also effective at cleaning your teeth, and they can also be a great option when paired with acidic and other troublesome foods because they not only promote saliva production but actually coat the teeth in a way that protects them. This is why eating a salad is such an excellent option as the first course of a meal that features tomato sauce and the like.
Broccoli is another healthy vegetable that is loaded with vitamins. Vitamin C and K, in particular, help with blood clotting and the strength of your teeth. Broccoli is a natural tooth cleaner, and like lettuce, it forms a protective coating over the teeth, which makes it a good option as a side for acidic meals.
Lean Meats and Fatty Fish
Lean meats and fatty fish are a good addition to most diets because they are high in nutrients that can be difficult to get elsewhere. Examples include heme iron and vitamin B12, which are found in red meats. Fatty fish, such as salmon, give you omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and phosphorous.
Nuts are outstanding for your oral health and a good option to mix with fruits and vegetables as a healthy snack. Nuts are crunchy and high in nutrients like calcium and phosphorus, and certain nuts also have specific oral health benefits. Almonds, Brazil nuts, and cashews, for instance, help combat bacteria that is associated with tooth decay. Walnuts are a particularly nutrient-rich nut that contains zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin E, thiamine, potassium, niacin, magnesium, iron, folic acid, fiber, and more.
Sweet potatoes are good for you because they promote saliva production but also because they contain significant amounts of vitamin A. Your gums need vitamin A in order to maintain soft tissues and mucous membranes, and vitamin A is necessary to retain keratin, which helps in the formation of tooth enamel.
Shiitake mushrooms not only have a bold and distinct flavor but are an excellent health food due to the nutrients, antioxidants, and antibacterial agents that they contain. The antibacterial component helps to ward off tooth decay, and the lentinan in the mushrooms actually inhibits bacterial growth.
Onions and Garlic
Many people associate garlic and onions with bad breath, but these foods are quite good for oral health. Allicin found in garlic is an antimicrobial, which helps to prevent periodontal disease, and raw onions have antibacterial properties that kill bacteria linked to gum disease and tooth decay.
Berries Rich in Vitamin C
Strawberries and other berries rich in vitamin C are good for your oral health because vitamin C and antioxidants are important to growing and repairing oral tissues. Additionally, the collagen in the dentin of your teeth requires vitamin C for development and regeneration. These berries often contain malic acid, which along with the antioxidants and vitamin C, can whiten your teeth naturally.
Fresh or Sugar-Free Raisins and Cranberries
Cranberries contain polyphenols, which reduce inflammation, combat cell damage, and even help to prevent cancer. Fresh cranberries—as opposed to processed cranberries and cranberry juice—help to inhibit the formation of plaque and thus help to prevent cavities and gum disease. Just make sure to avoid products that have sugar added, as that sugar can undermine these benefits.
There is a common perception that raisins cause tooth decay, but there are studies that suggest that raisins actually fight cavities due to the phytochemicals they contain. Oleanolic acid is a phytochemical that raisins are rich in, and this acid is known to inhibit the growth of Streptococcus mutans, which is linked to tooth decay, and Porphyromonas gingivalis, which is linked to gum disease.
While raisins may suppress the bacteria associated with gum disease and tooth decay, you do have to take care when eating them. Raisins can get stuck between teeth, behind them, and in your chewing surfaces. Since the raisin residue is clingy, you should be sure to rinse vigorously with water, perhaps floss and chew sugar-free gum when you are finished in order to help wash those particles away.
Pears and Apple
Eating apples, pears, and other fibrous fruits is good for your oral health because it promotes saliva production, which washes away food particles, bacteria, and acid. Fresh apples and pears are also rich in nutrients that benefit your teeth and gums, but be mindful that this is not necessarily the case with juices. Fibrous fruits and vegetables are also good for you in that they stimulate your gums. While many fruits are acidic, apples and pears are great examples of fruits that actually neutralize acids. You do need to be careful when eating apples since it is possible to cause dental damage, but you can cut an apple into slices, which makes it much easier to eat and much less likely to damage a tooth.
Kiwis are another fruit that contains high levels of vitamin C. Vitamin C boosts your immune system because it promotes the production of blood cells that kill foreign microorganisms. This helps to avoid gum disease and can even make you less prone to illnesses caused by germs via your mouth.
Simple carbohydrates are bad for your oral health because they break down into simple sugars and tend to linger in the mouth. But that is not the case with complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains. This is among the main reasons that wheat bread, wheat pasta, and brown rice are healthier alternatives.
Tea contains polyphenols, which were mentioned earlier concerning fresh cranberries. All the benefits discussed earlier, such as reducing inflammation, can be gotten by drinking tea as well. Both green and black teas contain high levels of polyphenols, which inhibit the growth of bacteria that contribute to gum disease and tooth decay. The University of Illinois at Chicago researchers found that people who regularly drink tea had less plaque buildup than those who regularly drank and rinsed with water.
Additionally, the Journal of Dental Research published a study in which it was found that tea—and in particular black tea—was effective at avoiding and getting rid of bad breath. This is because the polyphenols suppress aspects of the bacteria that contribute to halitosis. It is worth noting that darker teas and black coffee will stain your teeth over time. You can opt for lighter teas, such as green tea, which has many health benefits associated with it, and another option is to dilute your tea or coffee with milk or cream, which will help to mitigate the staining effect.
Bolster Your Oral Health With Your Diet Choices
Your diet can play a significant role in the health of your teeth and gums. Choose your foods and beverages with care, and be sure to visit Jeffrey D. Clark, DDS, every six months because no diet choices can replace that benefit. Your regular checkup is also an excellent opportunity to discuss your diet with Dr. Clark and get recommendations on foods for optimal dental health. Call Scottsdale Dental Excellence at 480 585 1853 to schedule your appointment.