We already know that reaching for a candy bar with caramel and a cookie inside isn’t the best choice for our health, let alone our teeth. The carbs and sticky sweets have little nutritional value, plus, they adhere to teeth and can promote tooth decay. Instead, let’s focus on what we can eat to enhance our oral health. That includes eating healthier, nutrient-dense foods more frequently to provide vitamins and minerals and encourage saliva production. Adding fresh, nutritious options as well as neutralizing dairy products can make a difference to your teeth and gums—and your overall health.
Nutritious and Crunchy Vegetables
Vegetables are always high on the list of excellent food choices for your teeth and gums. Imagine how the fresh, firm stems and florets of raw broccoli and cauliflower could help clean your teeth of plaque-forming bacteria. Other great raw vegetable choices include sticks of carrots, celery and cucumber. Fresh bell peppers, which are rich in vitamin C, offer another option to dip into some hummus or eat alongside a burger or chicken sandwich.
Other nutrient-dense options—filled with vitamin A for gum health—include dark leafy greens such as Swiss chard and kale as well as sweet potatoes. These can be cooked with antioxidant-loaded garlic and onion for additional health benefits.
Calcium-Rich Dairy and Nuts
When you think of oral health, you might overlook dairy products. However, many can help boost your calcium intake while adding flavor and neutralizing acidic and sugary foods. Cheese offers these benefits and is just plain delicious eaten fresh or melted on a stuffed pepper or zucchini. In addition, unsweetened dairy products like plain yogurt, Greek yogurt and milk neutralize acid and sweets in the mouth. They can be used to wash away sweet, sticky and acidic foods, too.
Nuts also provide calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D and other beneficial nutrients while they stimulate saliva production. Walnuts are considered a super food, packed with good fats that benefit the whole body. Almonds, cashews and Brazil nuts offer more top choices for snacking. Keep the high fat content in mind and limit your snack size to a small area of your palm.
Apples, Pears & Strawberries
Many fruits contain quite a bit of sugar, but apples, pears and strawberries have high amounts vitamins as well as fiber that can help cleanse teeth. Fiber also aids gut health, providing a necessary nutrient to keep your gastrointestinal tract healthy. The vitamin C in strawberries provides support for strong teeth and an acid that could naturally help whiten teeth.
Water & Tea
According to dental research, water and tea are the healthiest beverages to drink for your oral health. Fluoridated water is preferred for adding the key mineral, fluoride, to teeth on a daily basis. If you’ve eaten something sweet and don’t have the opportunity to brush your teeth, you can do a quick rinse with tap water to temporarily cleanse your mouth. If the water from your city is fluoridated, all the better!
Did you know that tea contains polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that can help reduce inflammation? Polyphenols could help prevent gingivitis and other gum diseases. Green tea offers a high level of antioxidants that could benefit your oral health. Make your own and skip the sugar for a tooth-friendly beverage!
Research on functional foods for teeth is beginning to show that certain foods can disrupt plaque formation and fight pathogens. The University of Illinois at Chicago has found benefits to partaking of cranberries, cranberry juice, ginger, mushrooms, garlic, and onions.
Watch this video about their functional food research.
While starchy foods like potato chips should be avoided, you can replace those snacks with whole-grain choices, which include complex carbohydrates. Toast some whole wheat bread and switch white rice for brown rice to get a more nutrient-dense carb. Not only will these foods give bacteria less fuel to grow plaque, but whole grains will also make you feel full faster and provide long-term energy.
Your diet wouldn’t be complete without protein, and meat, fatty fish and tofu rise to the top of tooth-boosting nutritional power. Chewing meat and fish like salmon decreases the acidity in the mouth. Plus, salmon and tofu contain a lot of phosphorous, which is great for your tooth enamel.
Changes to your diet can be easy and effective ways to improve your teeth and gum health. Remember that you don’t have to change everything all at once. Try mixing up your food habits a little at a time so you can have strong, healthy teeth and gums. Make raw vegetables and fresh fruits a priority in your everyday diet, and do your best to minimize sweet treats and beverages.
If you drink plenty of water, keep brushing and flossing in your dental hygiene routine, and eat a variety of nutritious foods, you can enhance your overall health!