For healthy teeth and gums, think before you eat and drink. Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks. If you are on a special diet, keep your physician’s advice in mind when choosing foods.
Healthy Foods for your Teeth
Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables:
Foods with fiber stimulate saliva flow, which is a natural defense against cavities. Not only does saliva wash away food particles and clean your mouth, about 20 minutes after you eat something, saliva begins to neutralize the acids attacking your teeth.
Cheese, milk, plain yogurt and other dairy products:
The calcium, phosphates and vitamin D in cheese, milk and other dairy products are important minerals for the health of your teeth. Your teeth are made mostly of calcium, and without enough in your diet, you risk developing tooth decay and other problems. An added benefit is that the calcium in these foods mixes with plaque and sticks to teeth, protecting them from acids that cause decay and helping to rebuild tooth enamel on the spot.
Sugarless chewing gum:
Chewing sugar-free gum after meals and snacks can help rinse harmful acid off your teeth to help you preserve tooth enamel. But be sure it’s sugarless! Chewing gum containing sugar may actually increase your chances of developing a cavity. Sugarless gum containing xylitol, which has been shown to have decay-preventive qualities, may even have an added benefit. Research indicates that xylitol most likely inhibits the growth of Streptococcus mutans, the oral bacteria that cause cavities.
Green and black teas:
Tea contains compounds that suppress bacteria, slowing down the processes responsible for tooth decay and gum disease. Depending on the type of water you use to brew your tea, a cup of tea can also be a source of fluoride.
Foods to Avoid
Sugary candies and sweets that stay in your mouth:
If you eat sweets, go for those that clear out of your mouth quickly. Those that stick around — lollipops, caramels, jelly beans and hard candies — make it difficult for saliva to wash the sugar away. Snacks like cookies, cakes or other desserts contain a high amount of sugar, which can cause tooth decay. If you eat these foods, limit when you eat them, instead of snacking on them through the day, and brush your teeth afterward.
Starchy, refined carbohydrates:
Foods such as chips, bread, pasta or crackers can be as harmful to the teeth as candy. Starches made from white flour are simple carbohydrates and can linger in your mouth and then break down into simple sugars. Bacteria feed on these sugars and produce acid, which causes tooth decay. Avoid eating them throughout the day and brush afterward.
Beverages with added sugar:
Be aware of the amount of sugar in your drinks by checking the nutrition label. Consider alternatives such as water, tea, coffee and coconut water.
Fruit is an important part of a healthy diet. Whole fruits have fiber and are a less concentrated source of sugar (and sometimes acids) than juice. When you drink fruit juice, use a straw to keep it from having too much contact with your teeth or rinse with water afterward.
Lemons, citrus fruits and other acidic foods:
Avoid keeping these foods in your mouth for a long period of time.
Limit the number of snacks you eat. Choose something that is healthy like fruit or vegetables or a piece of cheese. Foods that are eaten as part of a meal cause less harm to teeth than eating lots of snacks throughout the day, because more saliva is released during a meal. Saliva helps wash foods from the mouth and lessens the effects of acids, which can harm teeth and cause cavities.
For good dental health, always remember to brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, floss daily and visit your dentist regularly. With regular dental care, your dentist can help prevent oral problems from occurring in the early stages, while they are easy to treat.
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