Eating a rich diet of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and quality sources of protein is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But have you ever stopped to think about the effect your diet has on your teeth and gums?
In today’s post, we’ll take a look at some foods that are great (and not so great) for your teeth. We’ll also talk about the role your diet plays in your dental health, and how healthy teeth and gums are vital for your overall health and wellbeing.
Poor Nutrition Can Hurt Your Dental Health
For better or worse, your diet affects the integrity of your teeth. For example, studies confirm the direct relation between consuming excessive sugar and the risk of tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease.
Furthermore, highly acidic foods, sticky and chewy foods, and too much alcohol can have negative effects on your dental health, including enamel erosion and a dry mouth.
Some sources claim using toothpaste with fluoride and drinking fluoridated water is enough to prevent the negative dental effects of a poor diet. We know this is simply not true. This approach just covers up the root of the issue and can cause long-term issues for your teeth and overall health.
Instead, truly taking care of your teeth means adopting a lifestyle that promotes a nutritious and healthy diet.
Your Mouth is A Window to Your Overall Health
Although cavities and gum disease are serious health problems, some people don’t understand the severity of these issues. After all, with the advancements in dentistry, you can just go to the dentist and have the cavity filled or replace a bad tooth with a crown, right?
While high tech dental services can restore dentition and diseased gums, poor oral health has far-reaching and long-lasting effects on your overall wellness. There are several health problems highly correlated with oral health issues, including:
- Chronic Headaches
- Respiratory Issues
- Heart Disease
When you consider that your mouth is a window to your long-term well-being, taking care of your teeth and gums should absolutely be a high priority. And as described at the beginning of this post, the foods you eat play an important role in maintaining a healthy mouth.
Top 11 Foods To Promote Great Oral Health
So which foods are good for your teeth? Those filled with the nutrients your body needs to keep your mouth healthy!
There are 8 standout nutrients important for your dental health:
- Vitamins A, B, C, D
Each of these nutrients plays an important role in maintaining your tooth structure, developing mucosal and connective tissue, supporting your immune function, and more. To keep your teeth and gums happy and healthy, make sure you’re eating foods containing these nutrients!
Below we’ve compiled a list of foods high in these nutrient categories that are great for your overall dental health– take a look and see if any of these ingredients surprise you!
Leafy Greens (Spinach, Broccoli, Kale)
Popeye had it right when he said to “eat your spinach!” Leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, and kale are great for your teeth (and overall health). These foods are rich in calcium, folic acid, and important vitamins.
Celery, Apples, & Carrots
Did you know that celery is nature’s dental floss? Celery breaks down in into fibrous strands, and these strands naturally clean your teeth! It’s not just celery, though. Crunchy foods like apples and carrots are great at scraping away food or plaque stuck on your teeth.
Additionally, high-fiber foods like celery, apples, and carrots take more time to chew. This creates more saliva in your mouth, which is important for cleansing your mouth of bacteria near your gumline.
However, keep in mind, apples and carrots are very hard and can be the cause of chipped or broken teeth if you’re not careful. Make sure to cut them up into smaller pieces before eating, and avoid chomping down on them with your front teeth.
Nuts are chock full of healthy nutrients for your teeth, especially calcium and phosphorous. Almonds are especially beneficial, providing great fats, protein, and fiber.
However, like celery and apples, almonds are very hard. Vigorously chomping away on a handful of almonds can sometimes cause chipped or fractured teeth. Limit this danger by choosing a sliced variety of almonds.
Garlic & Onions
Both garlic and onions have strong anti fungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. These properties are great at helping fighting gum disease. Plus, garlic especially is an excellent source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, phosphorus, and calcium.
Yogurt, Milk & Cheese
Assuming you’re “down with dairy”, these foods can be great in providing some much-needed dental nutrients. Yogurt is packed with calcium and probiotics that will help defend your mouth against gum disease and bad breath.
Milk lowers the acid levels in your mouth and is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Note: I recommend choosing dairy from grass-fed cows whenever possible. The science is clear: cows raised on corn lack the level of health that grass-fed cows enjoy.
As for cheese, this food increases your saliva production, which will help wash away bacteria in your mouth. Just remember, when it comes to cheese, aged is better for your dental health.
Whole grains contain complex carbohydrates which give bacteria in your mouth less digestible food. Good sources of whole grains include brown rice, quinoa, teff, millet and other whole-grains. These foods provide vitamin B and iron, both important nutrients for your gum health.
Beware, however, of gluten-containing grains if your suffer from gluten-intolerance of any kind.
A diet rich in fermented foods can greatly help build up the gastrointestinal ecology so that your intestines are able to process food most effectively.
Berries! (Strawberries, Cranberries, Blueberries)
Berries are great for your teeth. Fresh cranberries and blueberries help keep plaque away by disrupting its formation. Strawberries are packed with vitamin C and malic acid, which can even help naturally whiten your teeth! Additionally, all these berries are very high in antioxidants.
Antioxidants help protect the body from damage caused by harmful free radicals. Your mouth needs antioxidants to help combat oxidative stress. Read our blog post about the many oral health benefits of antioxidants to learn more!
Shiitake mushrooms contain lentinan, which helps disrupt and stop the formation of plaque on your teeth. These mushrooms also contain antimicrobial properties, lowering bacteria related to gingivitis.
Soy products can be great for your dental health! In fact, studies show soy intake is linked to a decreased prevalence of periodontal disease.
However, if you regularly drink soy milk, make sure to check the nutrition label. Many brands of soy milk cram a discouraging amount of sugar in their products. As we know, sugar is bad for your teeth. This is especially true when you’re consuming it in liquid form, as it tends to stick around on your teeth for longer.
And choose organic! The amount of toxic chemicals used to process non-organic soy is surprising.
Fatty fish are great for your oral health. Salmon and tuna, for example, are good sources of vitamin D, which is critical for your dental health as it allows you to absorb and use calcium. Fish is also high in omega 3-fatty acids, another important nutrient to keep your mouth healthy.
Green and Black Tea
Whether you’re drinking green or black, tea is filled with polyphenols which combat and reduce bacteria in your mouth linked with tooth decay. Green tea especially will also helps neutralize sulfur compounds, which in turn helps prevent bad breath.
The catch here is to avoid adding sugar to your tea.
Keep Your Mouth Healthy by Eating Well!
Are you eating foods that promote the long-term health of your teeth and gums? What foods will you start adding to your diet now that you’ve read this article?
Here at Blodgett Dental Care, we strive to inform our patients about oral health risks would otherwise prevent complete wellness from occurring– including the food you eat! Our focus is on your whole body health and preventive treatments, treating not just your symptoms but the root of the issue.
If you have any questions about what you learned here today, let us know. We’d be happy to help you understand how what you eat affects your dental health. Or, if you’re concerned about cavities, tooth decay, periodontal disease, or other dental issues, give our Portland dentist office a call at (503) 285-3620 to schedule an appointment.
Dr. Blodgett completed his pre-doctoral sciences at Portland State University and graduated from the Oregon Health Science University School of Dentistry in 1999. As a modern pioneer in progressive dental care, Dr. Blodgett has become a leader in minimally-invasive dentistry, dental lasers, computerized dental technology, and holistic care. He is widely recognized for the innovative care he provides and is dedicated to helping his patients optimize their whole body health.