It’s common knowledge that brushing your teeth twice daily, using floss and visiting your dentist regularly can help you avoid cavities. But the foods you choose and how often you eat them can also affect your general health and the health of your teeth and gums.
Many researchers believe gums disease progresses faster and can be more severe in people with poor nutrition.1 You can help protect your teeth by eating foods good for teeth and gums as well as avoiding ones that cause decay and gum disease.
What foods are good for your teeth?
There are some foods that can help prevent tooth decay. Here are 10 tooth-healthy foods and beverages:2
- Water - Drinking plenty of water every day is good for your entire body, especially your teeth. Drinking water removes bacteria and the sticky plaque that causes decay. It can also help avoid dry mouth. If you are fortunate enough to have fluoridated water, that extra protection can help prevent tooth decay.
- Dairy - If you can eat dairy products, daily intake of milk, unsweetened yogurt and cheese are good sources of foods that can help your teeth. They contain high levels of calcium, which keeps your teeth and bones strong. They are low in sugar, high in protein and help prevent tooth decay.
- Vegetables - Packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, vegetables should take up most of your plate at every meal. Vegetables are healthy carbohydrates that should be a big part of a diet for healthy teeth.
- Lean protein - Lean meat, chicken, eggs and fish can provide protein to help grow strong bones and teeth. Don’t forget beans and peas.
- Fruits - Fresh fruits are high in both water and fiber. Fruits are great for digestion and provide an energy boost when you need one.
- Nuts - Like lean meats and dairy, nuts provide protein and minerals. Be sure to buy unsweetened ones.
- Healthy fats - Recent research has proven that we need healthy fats—found in nuts, fish, seeds, olives, coconuts, and avocados—for good overall health.3 Add these to your diet to help absorb the vitamins and minerals from other foods and guard against inflammation, which is a sign of gum disease.
- Whole grains - Whole grain bread, pasta and cereal provide vitamins and minerals not found in their over-processed white counterparts. This group of nutritious foods includes corn, rice and oats.
- Sugar-free gum - When you can’t brush after eating, chewing sugar-free gum can help remove food particles and bacteria from teeth. It stimulates saliva flow, which serves to clean the teeth until you can get to a toothbrush.
- Unsweetened tea and coffee - Coffee, black, and green teas are healthy beverage choices if you do not add any sugar. Too much caffeine can cause dry mouth, so make sure to drink plenty of water if you drink a lot of coffee or tea.
What foods are bad for your teeth?
Now that you know the foods that you should eat for good dental health, lets look at the ones to avoid.4
- Ice - Chewing ice can cause your teeth to chip or break.
- Sweets - Eating candy, cakes and cookies provides nourishment for the plaque that destroys tooth enamel.
- Starchy foods - White bread, pasta, potatoes, white rice and refined sugar can provide the bacterial plaque with the food it needs to weaken your enamel.
- Dried fruits - Although it seems like dried fruits with no added sugar should be a healthy choice, they are not good for your teeth. These products are sticky and difficult to remove. They can provide an environment for tooth decay to flourish.
- Soda – This contains not only high levels of sugar but also acids that destroy teeth. Diet sodas sometimes have higher acid content than regular ones.
- Sports drinks - These are often high in sugar.
- Citrus drinks - High in acids, orange juice, lemonade and pineapple juices can help erode tooth enamel.
- Alcohol - Over time, people who drink alcohol excessively find their salivary flow permanently reduced, which can lead to decay and gum disease.
A diet for healthy teeth
The foods you eat affect your overall health as well as your dental health. Including lots of vegetables, dairy, healthy fats and high-quality protein like meat, eggs, beans and nuts can help keep your teeth and gums healthy.
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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. This is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.