Eating foods that are good for your teeth can help make you an overall healthier person. But with so much information online these days, how can you really know for sure which foods and drinks you should consume every day?
As a general rule, you want to find foods that contain high amounts of vitamins, minerals, and organic nutrients that build strong teeth, gums, and jawbones.
Which ones will give you the biggest bang for your buck? Eating a diet rich in all these foods will help you fight tooth decay and gum disease.
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1. Cheese, Milk, Plain Yogurt
Why it’s good: Cheese, milk, and yogurt top most of the food lists that are good for your teeth because they are low in sugar and high in calcium. Calcium is important in keeping your jawbones and teeth healthy and strong. If you lack calcium, your body takes it from your bones and teeth. This makes your jaws and teeth weaker.
Milk and cheese help keep the acid level lower in your mouth, which helps fight tooth decay. This anti-acidic quality makes cheese a great food to eat after eating a high starch or acidic meal. Yogurt’s probiotics also fight cavities and help protect against gum disease.
Many foods and drinks tend to dry out your mouth. Cheese is one of the foods that have the opposite effect. It increases your saliva, which washes food particles and bacteria away from teeth.
Foods to avoid: All foods with added sugar are bad for your teeth. That means that yogurt with sugary fruit added is not one of the foods that are good for your teeth. The same is true of flavored milk. Milk manufacturers place strawberries, chocolate, and other flavors in milk so kids will get their calcium. The problem is that along with the calcium, kids also get a lot of cavity-causing sugar.
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Why it’s good: Don’t roll your eyes! Water helps fight two of oral health’s chief enemies: tooth decay and dehydration. Drinking fluoridated water is one of the best ways to fight tooth decay. Besides the benefit of fluoride, water also helps wash food particles away from teeth.
Dehydration is bad for your general health, and it also causes major problems in your mouth. A dry mouth is an easy way to develop gum disease and tooth decay. Drinking enough water each day makes sure your saliva can function to keep the acid level low in your mouth. And this leads to healthier teeth and gums!
How often you should drink it: The United States National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommend men drink about 15 cups and women 11 cups of water each day. Water is also helpful if you can’t brush your teeth right after a meal. Swishing water around your mouth removes food lodged between teeth so that food doesn’t sit against a tooth with the potential of starting a cavity.
Drinks to avoid: There is a hydrating benefit to any drink because most drinks are mostly water. However, adding other things makes some drinks unhealthy and even harmful to your teeth and gums. Sports drinks may provide water and electrolytes during the game, but they also bathe the teeth in sugar. Avoid all drinks with sugar for the healthiest teeth.
3. Fruits and Vegetables
Why it’s good: Fruits and vegetables are some of the best foods that are good for your teeth. Just like these foods help your heart, kidneys, and skin, they also have great benefits for your oral health. Eating crunchy foods every day such as apples, carrots, and celery help remove plaque.
Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables also help protect the cells in your gums from inflammation and infection. The high water content of leafy vegetables helps control the acids present in your mouth and prevents tooth decay.
How often you should eat it: The American Heart Association recommends 5 servings of vegetables and 4 servings of fruit each day. But a word of caution: don’t eat too many high sugar fruits without brushing soon after eating.
Foods to avoid: When you eat canned fruits and vegetables, check the label carefully for added sugars. Avoid these and opt for fresh foods.
4. Whole Grains
Why it’s good: It may surprise you that these foods are on the American Dental Association’s list of foods that are good for your teeth. They make the list because whole grains contain many vitamins and minerals that protect your teeth and gums from disease.
These include vitamin B, magnesium, and iron, which are important for healthy gums, jawbones, and teeth. Research shows that whole grains reduce gum disease since these foods help control blood sugar.
How often you should eat it: About one-third of your diet should be grains, and half of those should be whole grains. Because of the effect on blood sugar, make sure you don’t eat excessive amounts of grains.
Foods to avoid: Food manufacturers are clever when it comes to grains. They add lots of sugar to their processed foods that also contain plenty of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Remember that sugar is the enemy of healthy teeth, so avoid it as much as possible.
5. Meat and Fatty Fish
Why it’s good: You already know the role calcium plays in healthy teeth and jawbones. But did you know that your body can’t absorb this much-needed calcium without vitamin D?
Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel are excellent food sources of vitamin D. Eating these foods helps your teeth and gums get the same disease-fighting help of calcium from dairy foods.
Meat contains many vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that help you stay healthy and fight dental disease. Chewing meat also helps your mouth by increasing saliva without causing harm to your teeth’s enamel.
How often you should eat it: The American Heart Association recommends 8-9 servings of poultry, meat, and eggs, and 2-3 servings of fish per week.
Foods to avoid: Eat high-fat meat in moderation and consider the impact of these foods on your heart and blood pressure.