We all know the benefits of regular and consistent brushing and flossing. Plaque produces acid that causes cavities, damages tooth enamel, and may even lead to gum disease. Brushing and flossing keep our teeth healthy by removing sugar and food particles that team up with bacteria to cause plaque.
We know the sugary foods we need to limit or avoid because they promote the bacteria growth that produces acid and causes tooth decay. Unrefined sugars like maple syrup, molasses, and honey are as damaging to our teeth as refined sugar. Of course, the worst offenders are sticky, sugary treats like dried fruit and candies that cling to our teeth. Sweetened juice drinks and sodas flood every crevice of our teeth in sugar. Starchy foods like cereals and popcorn leave a residue that is quickly converted to sugar by the bacteria in our mouths.
Now, are you ready for some good news?!
New (and growing) research shows that certain foods are good for your teeth, too. Along with foods that are known to be heart-healthy, we now have a list of foods that actually promote oral health.
Here are eight foods and drinks that are good for your teeth:
1. Crunchy foods
Apples, carrots, cucumbers, and celery take some serious chewing to break down. All that crunching acts as a cleaning tool to help remove plaque. Bacteria gets cleared away instead of staying in your mouth and settling on your teeth.
Black and green teas contain compounds called polyphenols which help slow the growth of bacteria that causes gum disease and cavities. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago found evidence that people who rinsed their mouths with black tea for one minute, 10 times a day, had less plaque buildup on their teeth than those who rinsed with water.
3. Vitamin-rich foods
According to the American Dental Association, foods high in phosphorus – like eggs, fish, and meat – and foods containing calcium – like leafy greens, almonds, and cheese – help keep tooth enamel healthy and strong.
Acidic foods and drinks can cause tiny cuts on the enamel of your teeth. Phosphate and calcium help redeposit minerals back into those abrasions. Calcium is also good for your jawbone, as well as other bones in your body.
Milk can neutralize some of the acid formed by plaque bacteria. Unfortunately, adding milk to your cereal doesn’t have the same benefit since the milk becomes sweet and syrupy, which is bad for teeth. So, instead of drinking water or juice, drink a glass of milk after you eat a bowl of cereal. Vitamin D also increases the absorption of calcium.
Research has shown that 12-15-year-olds who ate cheddar cheese had lower levels of acid in their mouths than those who drank a glass of milk or ate sugar-free yogurt.
In the research, the teens rinsed their mouths with water after eating the foods. Then the acid, or pH, levels in their mouths were measured 10, 20, and 30 minutes after they rinsed with water. The cheese eaters showed a rapid drop in pH levels each time they were measured, but those who ate yogurt or drank milk showed no change at all.
Just like tea, cranberries contain polyphenols which keep plaque from sticking to your teeth and lower the risk of cavities. Since the fruit is so tart, however, most cranberry products have added sugar which may undo any of the potential benefits for your teeth.
Raisins are naturally sweet, so they don’t contain table sugar (sucrose). Raisins are also a source of phytochemicals that may kill plaque bacteria that cause cavities. In addition, some compounds in raisins appear to slow the growth of bacteria that have been linked with gum disease.
8. Sugarless gum
Chewing increases saliva production which naturally washes out some of the bacteria in your mouth. So, make it a habit to chew a piece of sugarless gum after you eat…especially when you can’t brush your teeth after a meal. Since bacteria need sucrose (table sugar) to produce plaque, make sure the gum you choose is sugarless.
As we approach the new year and begin to make resolutions to get healthy, now is a good time to start being proactive about the health of your mouth, too. A healthy balanced diet will provide all the nutrients you need to build strong teeth and keep your mouth and gums healthy. The beginning of the year is also a great time to schedule a check-up and routine cleaning, so give us a call today and make an appointment. We look forward to seeing you and helping you achieve oral health!