Your food choices have a direct impact on your general health and well-being. But let’s not forget about your mouth. The foods and beverages you consume on a regular basis can either benefit your smile or wreak havoc on your teeth and gums. Here’s a look at some surprisingly (and not so surprisingly) healthy foods and drinks that can help you maintain a healthy, vibrant smile.
Dairy products, like milk, yogurt, and cheese help support strong bones and teeth. These foods are rich in calcium and phosphorous—two important minerals that strengthen enamel and protect teeth from decay. A dairy protein called casein also aids in preventing erosion of tooth enamel by forming a protective layer on the outer surface of the teeth. Munching on hard cheese is a great way to neutralize acid and maintain pH levels in the mouth, which reduces plaque build-up.
If you want to keep your teeth and gums in optimal health, load up on fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin C, like berries, oranges, and broccoli. Strawberries, for instance, contain vitamin C, fiber, and malic acid which can actually dissolve stains on teeth to whiten them naturally. Likewise, sweet potatoes are another great source of both vitamin C and vitamin A. This nutrient-dense potato stimulates the formation of tooth enamel by helping the body produce keratin—an essential protein for the production of the hard, outer layer of the tooth.
If you’re a tea drinker, you may be helping your teeth more than you know. In fact, antioxidant-rich green tea contains polyphenols, micronutrients that occur naturally in plant-based foods that help kill any harmful bacteria lingering in the mouth. Because polyphenols are so effective at removing bacteria, drinking green tea can reduce gum inflammation and help alleviate bad breath symptoms. Similarly, cranberries are another food that contains polyphenols. Including these sweet berries in your diet can help protect your teeth from plaque formation.
Green Leafy Vegetables
There are plenty of benefits to eating spinach, kale and other leafy green vegetables. Not only are these superfoods great for your physical health, they contribute to an overall healthier mouth as well. That’s because these foods are high in calcium and folic acid. Spinach and other greens help repair tooth enamel and may even treat gum problems. Enjoy leafy greens as a salad or add them to smoothies and other dishes as an easy way to incorporate them into your diet.
Do you like garlic? Considering adding it to your leafy greens for an extra boost of flavor. Its powerful antifungal and antiviral properties help combat bad bacteria to promote healthy teeth and gums.
Crunchy Fruits and Vegetables
Raw carrots, apples, pears, and celery are just a few of the crispy, fibrous foods that are good for your body and your teeth. Crunchy fruits and vegetables help scrub your teeth and massage your gums as your chew—much like a toothbrush. The act of chewing these crispy foods increases the production of saliva in the mouth. This cleanses the mouth from food particles and bacteria to reduce the risk of developing cavities.
Juices, soda and sports drinks may taste great, but they are loaded in sugars that cause tooth decay. Instead, drink plenty of water throughout the day. It’s essential for your health and allows the saliva in your mouth to breakdown food, neutralize acid and prevent tooth decay. Can’t brush between meals? Rinsing with water is another simple way to wash away leftover food particles and keep your mouth clean.
Tips for Snacking
Potato chips and cookies are quick and easy foods to eat between meals, but before you grab your favorite snack, consider its nutritional value. In many cases, snacks like crackers and cereals are high in sugars and starches that promote decay. Instead, reach for healthier options such as apple slices, carrots with hummus or a few slices of cheese. If possible, limit how often you snack throughout the day. Frequent snacking between meals increases the amount of time you expose your teeth to the harmful effects of sugar.
Bottom line: While no food should ever replace the need for at-home dental care, there are many tooth-friendly food options out there that play a significant role in helping you maintain a healthy smile. Don’t forget to routinely brush and floss at home, and maintain regular visits with your dentist as your best defense against oral health problems like tooth decay. Combined with practicing wise dietary choices, you can help keep your teeth and gums in optimal health for many years to come.
This infographic was created by McLean DDS.
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