Everyone knows that what we eat will impact our health. But, did you know your eating patterns also affect your teeth? Healthy eating patterns will help guard your mouth from tooth decay and gum disease. If your body is lacking in essential nutrients, this can make your mouth more susceptible to infection and lead to periodontal disease.
When thinking of our oral health, here are some tips on mouth-healthy foods to help you maintain your beautiful smile:
- Dairy: Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are full of calcium and protein. This helps strengthen teeth. For the most benefit, choose products that are low in sugar and don’t have sugar additives.
- Lean Proteins: Poultry, fish, and eggs are rich with phosphorus and protein, which helps to strengthen teeth.
- Fruits and Vegetables: An important part of any healthy diet, fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and water, which balances out the natural sugars they contain. Eating fruits and vegetables also helps increase saliva production, which helps to wash harmful acids and particles away from your teeth.
- Nuts: Carbohydrates activate acid-producing bacteria that increase your risk for tooth decay. Nuts are a healthy choice because they are high in protein and minerals but low in carbs, so they won’t contribute to your risk of cavities.
- Sugarless Gum: Like fruits and vegetables, chewing sugarless gum will increase the flow of saliva to help protect against acids in the mouth. To get the most benefit, look for gums that have xylitol. Xylitol is a sweetener that has been shown to help reduce the amount of acid in the mouth.
When it comes to healthy eating, we all have our guilty pleasures. Nobody is asking you to avoid certain foods altogether, but it is helpful to know which foods should be chosen in moderation, and some strategies to mitigate the harm they may cause.
The constant exposure to sugars in hard candies can be harmful to teeth. Biting on hard candy also puts you at risk for a broken or chipped tooth. A healthy alternative is sugarless gum.
Although eating fruit is good for your overall and oral health, be careful not to have too many highly acidic fruits. The acid can erode enamel and make your teeth more susceptible to decay.
Even when it’s a healthy snack, such as dried fruit, if it is sticky, you could inadvertently be causing harm. Sticky foods will stay on your teeth longer, increasing your risk for cavities. If this is a snack you love, rinse your mouth with water after eating to help remove food particles until your next brushing.
Crunchy foods, such as popcorn and potato chips, are filled with starchy particles that can easily get trapped between teeth. If you’ve had a crunchy snack, be sure to take extra time and care when flossing that day.
Mixing the sugary liquid of soda and sports drinks with the bacteria in your mouth will produce acids that are harmful to your tooth enamel. Sodas (including diet sodas) are highly acidic and harmful to your teeth. To make matters worse, the high caffeine content of these drinks will dry out your mouth, decreasing saliva and making you more vulnerable to acids and bacteria. When drinking soda, pair it with a glass of water to neutralize some of the effects. If reaching for a sports drink, read the labels and choose one that is low in sugar.
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