Ask anyone how nutrition relates to teeth, and they’ll usually name things that you shouldn’t eat. It’s true that many foods and drinks that contain sugar, acid and other tooth decay-causing ingredients are best to avoid for a healthy beautiful smile. While what you should eat to maintain that smile is a little less familiar, good nutrition is essential for oral and overall health.
Enamel makes up the tooth’s outermost layer. Although it’s the toughest substance in your entire body, it can become eroded or damaged. Strengthening this hard tissue is a key factor in how well your teeth can guard against decay, and eating foods high in calcium and vitamin D is one of the best ways to accomplish that. Many of us are familiar with milk and other dairy products as a primary source of calcium. Plain yogurt and cheese are also excellent sources of calcium, however if you can’t have dairy on a regular basis, even healthier alternatives are green vegetables like kale, broccoli, spinach and celery. Vitamin D can be found in a variety of fish, eggs and mushrooms.
When it comes to the health of your gums, vitamin C is essential. The only trouble with vitamin C is that it’s found in many foods that also tend to be high in acidity, such as red peppers, grapefruit and oranges. When enjoying these acidic though healthy foods, avoid brushing your teeth for about an hour after you eat them. Washing them down with cold water can help protect your tooth enamel from corrosion and staining.
In addition to the nutritional value of foods, your teeth can benefit from the texture of what you eat. Virtually any crunchy fruit or vegetable can serve as a natural toothbrush—clearing the teeth of bacteria and food residue. Eating raw foods like carrots, apples, pears and celery also prompts the production of saliva, and healthy salivary function prevents the proliferation of harmful oral bacteria.
When it comes to sugar substitutes and sugar-free products, many patients are curious with regard to the role they play in oral health. Are they sensible choices or does sweet inherently mean bad? It really depends upon the type of sugar substitute. If a product that claims to be sugar-free still includes ingredients like fructose or surcrose, you’re still ingesting natural sugar, which is digested by decay-causing bacteria and subsequently increases the risk to your teeth. Any sweeteners that aren’t digested as sugars don’t create this issue. These ingredients include isomalt, sorbitol, erythritol, saccharin, sucralose and mannitol. One way of sweetening food that’s actually beneficial for teeth is through the use of xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is found in the fibers of certain plants, including fruits, vegetables and grains. Xylitol is actually beneficial in the fight against tooth decay, and is used in many sugarless gums that can have dental health benefits.
While it’s not realistic to completely abstain from foods that contain acid and natural sugar, finding a balance between sufficient nutrition intake, dietary moderation and damage control against decay-causing substances, makes a big difference in your smile health. Using fluoride-based products like toothpaste and mouthwash can help your teeth guard themselves against bacteria-caused decay. Visiting for a professional cleaning every six months helps remove tartar and plaque that can’t be easily removed with household dental products. Cutting down on sweet indulgences can help you control cravings and enable you to make healthier choices throughout your day-- which is great for your teeth, gums and the rest of your body. And last but not least, brushing and flossing daily and mindfully is where the real fight against tooth decay takes place. These actions remove the food particles and residue that cause the most damage when left on the teeth.
Combine these considerations with a diet rich in natural vitamins and minerals, and you can better ensure that your smile will last a lifetime of good, nutritious meals.
This newsletter/website is not intended to replace the services of a doctor. It does not constitute a doctor-patient relationship. Information in this newsletter/website is for informational purposes only & is not a substitute for professional advice. Please do not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating any condition.