It may come as no surprise that certain foods promote healthy gums and teeth. You may be surprised, however, by which foods make the list. It turns out you don’t have to eliminate chocolate after all, but you may have to leave those all-natural banana chips in the bag. The experts at Couture Smiles in Woodland Hills, California, can help you sort through the muddle of which foods are best and worst for your teeth and choose a diet that, when combined with professional dental care, can keep your smile fabulous.
The Sticky Truth
It’s often their sticky nature rather than their mineral and vitamin content that make some foods unhealthy for your teeth. Many fresh fruits, for instance, contain magnesium, potassium, manganese, and other nutrients that promote strong tooth enamel and help fight against decay and gum disease.
Once they’re dried, however, these same nutrient-filled fruits become sticky and remain on your teeth much longer than their fresh counterparts. This long-lasting residue increases your risk of tooth decay.
You should also avoid gummy, sugary treats such as caramel and hard candies that take time to dissolve. Their long-term presence in your mouth increases the tooth-decaying potential of these foods.
If you find it hard to eliminate your trail mix, dried fruit, and other sticky treats altogether, you can still enjoy them occasionally — just decrease their decaying effects by rinsing, brushing, and flossing diligently after your snack.
If you don’t have the time to brush and floss but are craving something sweet, consider a fresh apple or a stick of sugarless gum to satisfy your taste buds without endangering your teeth. Munching on a fresh apple or chewing sugarless gum also promotes increased saliva production, which helps remove decay-causing bacteria.
More Cheese Please
Cheese makes the “good” list since it contains calcium and protein, which are a couple of the building blocks your teeth need for healthy enamel. Avoid cheesy dips and spreads, however, since they often contain ingredients that can wear away tooth enamel.
Yogurt is another dairy product that contains the calcium and protein your teeth need as well as helpful bacteria that promote gum health. For true oral health benefits, however, reach for plain yogurt rather than the kind with added sugars.
Milk continues its reign as a mouth-healthy beverage because of its calcium and phosphorus content. If dairy isn’t for you, spinach, kale, broccoli, and other tasty vegetables also contain calcium and other vital nutrients that help keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Good vs. bad crunch
Potato chips, pretzels, and other refined-carb snacks may add a satisfying crunch to your lunch-hour sandwich, but the starches they leave behind in the narrow spaces between your teeth promote plaque build-up that leads to decay. When you choose to indulge, make sure you floss with extra care afterward.
For a healthy crunch that boosts your calcium intake, consider adding seeds to your salad or grabbing a handful of almonds or cashews for your afternoon break. Include dark leafy greens in your diet for their crisp texture as well as their tooth-friendly vitamin and mineral content.
You can also try the sweet crunch of fresh carrots or apple slices at the end of your meal for a nutritious dessert that naturally cleans your teeth and stimulates your gums. While they can’t take the place of routine brushing and flossing, other fibrous vegetables such as celery also act as natural toothbrushes.
When you must have a real dessert, dark chocolate contains polyphenols, flavonoids, and other natural ingredients that may help slow tooth decay by hardening your enamel and preventing bacteria from building up in your mouth. It’s important to note that milk chocolate, with all its added sugar, does not provide the same benefits.
You are what you drink
Sports drinks, sodas, and other sugary drinks may already be on your list of beverages to avoid. Even carbonated beverages that contain zero sugar, however, are acidic and bad for your teeth since they can erode your enamel over time. Citrus fruits and juices are also very acidic in nature.
You can help minimize the effects of these beverages by drinking water alongside your favorite cola or juice. Drinking plenty of water throughout your day also helps keep your mouth clean and prevents the dry mouth that plaque-causing bacteria prefer.