Having strong teeth and healthy gums is critically important for general overall health and well-being. Health comes from a proper diet. Just as the food and vitamins you ingest build strong bones, your teeth and gums reflect what you eat as well. Food for strong teeth and gums can make the difference between a healthy smile and frequent visits to the dentist. Starchy and sugary foods are a culprit in tooth decay and gum disease because bacteria love that environment.
Even with a good oral hygiene routine of brushing twice a day and flossing once a day, it can still be difficult to keep your teeth healthy over time. Eating a variety of foods that are rich in nutrients promotes strong teeth and healthy gums. Some foods encourage tooth decay while others help fight it. Which foods are best for teeth and gum health? Your Holly Springs and Cary dentist, Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry, we counsel patients on how to improve their diets and, as a result, build and maintain healthy teeth and gums. We can help you determine what to change in the food you eat so you can be sure you are working toward strong and healthy teeth and gums!
What Happens in Your Mouth When You Eat Starchy and Sugary Foods
Starchy and sugary foods create an environment in your mouth that promotes the bacteria and germs that cause tooth decay and gum disease. When you have unhealthy conditions in your mouth, you create a place where acids form and wreak havoc. Plaque is a thin, invisible, sticky film of bacteria which covers all the surfaces of your teeth. When sugars and starches in your mouth come in contact with plaque, acids are created that can attack your teeth for 20 minutes or longer after you finish eating.
As the acids continue to destroy the hard enamel on the surfaces of your teeth, tooth decay occurs. Furthermore, the bacteria in plaque causes an inflammatory reaction that leads to a breakdown of the gums, bone, and other supporting structures of your teeth. The goal is to keep a clean mouth that is fighting bacteria, acids, and tooth decay. You can achieve this by, not only a good oral hygiene routine, but also eating the good foods.
The Good Foods
Cheese, milk, yogurt, and other dairy products are some of the best foods for healthy teeth. Dairy is low in sugar and high in calcium and it contains casein, which is a protein that is useful for strengthening tooth enamel. Calcium is extremely important for maintaining bone density.
Being high in phosphate content, cheese helps to balance pH levels in the mouth, which helps to preserve tooth enamel. Foods that generate saliva production, cheese being one, help to wash away bacteria that is in your mouth.
Milk is the best drink for your teeth because it is rich in calcium and other nutrients. By lowering the acid levels in your mouth, milk helps to fight tooth decay. Yogurt is also full of calcium and probiotics that protect against cavities, gum disease, and bad breath.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables are some of the best foods for dental health because of their nutritional benefits, so eat a lot of them! Fruits and veggies that are crisp and can be eaten raw like apples, celery, cucumbers, pears, and carrots help clean plaque from teeth. Fiber-rich fruits and veggies promote saliva production. And, you may not know it but saliva drastically reduces the effects of acid and enzymes on your teeth. It contains calcium and phosphate, which restores minerals that have been lost from bacterial acids. Many fruits and veggies contain antioxidants in vitamins such as vitamin C that help protect your gums and other tissues from cell damage and bacterial infection. For all of these reasons, you should include fresh fruits and veggies a staple in your diet.
Here are some fruits and vegetables that are great sources of healthy mouth nutrients:
- Sweet potatoes
- Garlic and onions
- Whole grains
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Cranberries (fresh or sugar free)
Nuts are full of important elements like calcium and phosphorus that have many health benefits for your teeth. Some nuts to include in your diet are almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, peanuts, and cashews. Peanuts are a great source of calcium and vitamin D and almonds also have significant amounts of calcium. Walnuts are loaded with nutrients and vitamins that have health benefits like fiber, folic acid, iron, thiamine, magnesium, iron, niacin, vitamin E, vitamin B6, potassium and zinc.
Teas and Coffee
You may not initially think of tea and coffee as being beneficial in oral health, but they are because of the polyphenols they contain. Polyphenols either kill or prevent bacteria from growing and making acid that harms tooth enamel. Green and black teas are excellent sources of polyphenol. Tea and coffee also contain antioxidants, which fight cell damage, reduce inflammation, and help to fight cancer.
The Bad Foods
Along with giving you the foods that promote healthy teeth and gums, we wanted to steer you away from those that are harmful.
Stay away from soft breads, potato chips, french fries, crackers, and other starchy food that can get stuck between your teeth. When you do eat these foods, try to have a floss or brush to use for places in between your teeth that are particularly susceptible to catch food.
Carbonated and Sweet Soft Drinks
Sugar is your nemesis in building and maintaining strong teeth and healthy gums–and soft drinks are full of it. Most soft drinks also have phosphoric and citric acids that wear away tooth enamel. Soft drinks are the leading source of added sugar for children and teens.
Sticky Candy and Sweets
Candy that sticks to your teeth stays there and breaks down tooth enamel. If you eat sweets, then choose ones that can clear out of your mouth quickly, like chocolate. Steer away from lollipops, taffy, and caramels. The ADA states that chocolate washes off the teeth more quickly than other candies, so try to rinse shortly after eating chocolates.
Contact Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry
For a dental team who can work with you in getting and maintaining strong teeth and healthy gums, contact your Cary and Holly Springs dentist Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry. We take a variety of insurance plans and are currently accepting new patients. Reach us at our Holly Springs dentist office at (919) 600-6262 and our Cary dentist office at (919) 467-2203.