If you’ve recently received some disappointing or expensive news from your dentist, you may be wondering if what eat might be partly to blame. We all know about candy and sugar, which generally can increase the likelihood of cavities and other trouble with your teeth. But what positive things can you do with your diet to actually help your teeth?
In addition to the recommended dental hygiene routine of brushing your teeth twice per day, flossing regularly, and visiting your dentist for a checkup every six months, paying just a little extra attention to the foods and drinks you consume will help you keep your healthy smile glowing for a long time.
Foods That Improve Your Teeth
It’s probably not a surprise that a generally well-balanced diet will help your teeth and gums just like it does for the rest of you, so use common sense when choosing what you eat. In addition, here are a few especially tooth-friendly foods you can add to your diet to help strengthen your teeth and improve your gums.
- Leafy greens – Greens like collards, spinach, kale and bok choy contain high levels of calcium and vitamin K, improving your bone density which helps strengthen your teeth and gums.
- Firm fruits like apples and pears – Although these fruits (like all fruits) have a fairly high sugar content, they also have enough water to dilute the effect of this sugar on your teeth. Apples and pears are also loaded with vitamins, ensuring good gum health.
- Cheese – In addition to being loaded with calcium, cheese can neutralize the effect of many of the other acids and other enamel-eroding elements in the food you eat, protecting your teeth in the process.
- Nuts – Nuts are another food that can help your overall tooth and gum health. By being loaded with phosphorus, an essential mineral, nuts like peanuts, cashews, and Brazil nuts can preserve the delicate capillaries that supply blood to your teeth and gums.
Foods That Can Harm Your Teeth
While it’s ok to eat whatever you want in moderation, eating or drinking too many of these treats and foods can cause dental damage:
- Lollipops – If, like many, you tend to eat lollipops wedged in one cheek, you may be exposing these teeth to pure sugar, increasing your risk of cavities. When you eat lollipops, avoid having them in direct contact with your teeth, and be sure to brush or at least rinse your mouth with water after you’ve finished to avoid tooth damage from sugar left behind.
- Gummy snacks – Chewy fruit snacks or gummy candy can also be harmful to your teeth — these candies tend to become lodged in the small spaces between your teeth, leading to bacteria growth that may eventually cause a cavity.
- Coffee with sugar or honey – Although black coffee won’t cause any dental damage other than a slight staining of your teeth, coffee sweetened with sugar or honey — or the use of sugar-based coffee creamer — can cause many of the same issues present with lollipops and other high-sugar items. Consider sweetening your coffee in a different way or even phasing out sweetener altogether.
- Soda – Heavy consumption of carbonated soft drinks can cause a high rate of carbon dioxide (CO2) in your blood which causes vital calcium to leach out of your bones, including your jaw. This can increase your risk of osteoporosis and other bone density disorders. In addition, many types of soda contain citric acid or another type of preservative acid, which can cause additional erosion of your dental enamel and increase your risk of cavities and tooth decay.
- Pickles – or any other high-pH foods, like lemons and other citrus fruits — can erode your dental enamel. These foods are all very acidic, making them bad news for dental enamel unless mixed with neutralizing fats that can minimize the total acid level of the food you’re eating.
Eat a Variety of Real Food for Dental Health
Your body was built to find all the nutrients it needs to keep you healthy, including your teeth and gums, from foods that nature provides. The best way to keep your mouth healthy is to keep this in mind. Look for foods that are not processed in a factory but processed instead in nature. This means a real peach instead of peach cobbler, corn on the cob instead of corn flakes and, well, you get the idea. In general, stay away from foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce, or ones with lots of added sugar, and your smile will be brighter than ever before because you and your teeth will feel and look better.
Dr. Medina is a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS). Advanced General Dentistry, with a practice in Las Vegas Nevada since 1988. He offers general and family dentistry, with a specialization in cosmetic and restorative dental services.