|When it comes to nutrition and oral health, it’s not just the usual suspects like sugar that may be harmful. Some surprising – even healthy – foods can cause cavities, while others can help protect you from decay, gum disease, and even bad breath. Here are some great tips on how you can tailor your diet for optimal dental health.|
|Eat carbs at mealtimes|
|A whole wheat roll can be just as damaging to your teeth and gums as a chocolate chip cookie. All carbohydrates break down into simple sugars, which are ultimately converted by bacteria in the mouth into plaque, a sticky residue that is the primary cause of gum disease and cavities. Carb-based foods tend to have “a chewy, adhesive texture,” making it easier for them to get caught between teeth or under the gum line, where bacteria can then accumulate, says Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Have carbs at mealtimes rather than as a snack: When you eat a larger amount of food, you produce more saliva, which helps wash food particles away.
|Black and green teas contain polyphenols, antioxidant plant compounds that prevent plaque from adhering to your teeth. “Tea also has potential for reducing bad breath because it inhibits the growth of the bacteria that cause the odor,” explains Christine D. Wu, PhD, associate dean for research at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry. Many teas also contain fluoride (from the leaves and the water it’s steeped in), which helps protect tooth enamel from decay and promotes healthy teeth.|
|Sip with a Straw|
|Most sodas, sports drinks, and juices contain acids that can erode dental enamel, even if they’re diet or sugar-free versions. Sipping acidic drinks through a straw positioned toward the back of your mouth limits their contact with your teeth and helps preserve the enamel, says a study in the British Dental Journal.|
|Increase your C intake|
|Vitamin C is the cement that holds all of your cells together, so just as it’s vital for your skin, it’s important for the health of your gum tissue. People who consumed less than 60 mg per day of C (8 ounces of orange juice or one small orange) were 25% more likely to have gum disease than people who took in 180 mg or more, according to a study of over 12,000 US adults conducted at the State University of New York University at Buffalo.
|Eat 800 mg of calcium a day|
|People who do are less likely to develop severe gum disease, says a recent study by the Buffalo researchers. The reason: About 99% of the calcium in your body is in your bones and teeth. Dietary calcium, available in foods like cheese, milk, and yogurt – strengthens the alveolar bone in the jaw, which helps hold your teeth in place.|
Apples. This tart fruit will increase saliva flow to rinse away bacteria.
Soy and Eggs. These protein rich foods help to replenish cells and keeps blood flowing to the nerve endings inside your teeth.
Carrots, Celery, and Bell Peppers. These crunchy vegetables cleanse and stimulate your gums. They also contain the cell booster, vitamin C.
Dark Chocolate (80% cocoa or more). This treat contains antioxidants that fight plaque buildup.
Cheese. Cheese is low in carbs and high in calcium and phosphate. It helps balance your mouths pH and helps preserve and repair tooth enamel.
Kiwi. For their size, kiwis pack more vitamin C than any other fruit.
Parsley and Mint. These herbs contain monoterpenes that travel quickly from your bloodstream to your lungs, where their refreshing odor is released via your breath.
Onion. Onions contain powerful antibacterial sulfur compounds which kill various types of bacteria. Raw onion is best. Don’t forget to chew some parsley afterwards to ward off bad breath!
Sesame Seeds. Seeds are abrasive and so ‘brush’ the surface of your teeth and remove debris. Sesame seeds are also high in calcium.
Wasabi. The substances that make wasabi taste hot, called isothiocyanates, also inhibit the growth of cavity-causing bacteria.
Shitake Mushrooms. Lentinan, a sugar found in shiitake mushrooms, prevents mouth bacteria from creating plaque.