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How to Eat for Better Dental Health

Posted in Dental Care By John Schmidt

Diet and dental health are connected.

What you eat matters. It's a concept that people are taking much more seriously these days, but what about your teeth and gums? What do they need to stay strong? When you're planning that healthy diet for you and your family, what foods are you including to inspire first-rate oral health? The nutrients that support growing muscles and bones may not be enough to meet that goal. Consider four ways you can eat for better dental health.

Fine Tune Your Diet for Dental Health

A little common sense goes a long way when it comes to eating right for your teeth. Sugary foods like candies and soda work against you. They increase plaque production leading to more cavities, so just cutting back on the sweets will help, but you'll also want to add some foods that support good dental health such as:

  • Fresh fruits. Especially the crunchy kind like apples or pears. Fruits with thick skins make your mouth work when you eat them and that extra effort stimulates saliva production that washes away the bacteria that builds up on teeth. Just the mechanism of biting into an apple is very similar to brushing your teeth, too. The extra fiber in these fruits helps your overall health, as well.
  • Leafy greens. If you already pay attention to your diet, then chances are leafy greens are part of your meal plans. Foods such as lettuce, spinach and kale are packed with antioxidants and vitamins. For oral health, they offer extra calcium to strengthen enamel and folic acid to help fight gum disease.
  • Crunchy veggies. The crunch appeal extends to the fresh vegetables in your life, too. Carrots, celery, broccoli and other foods that make you work to eat them are a good choice for oral health. They act like toothbrushes to scrape plaque off the surface of your teeth while providing some essential vitamins to make them stronger.

When looking to add dental-friendly foods to your diet think fresh, crunchy and green to get the most benefit.

Add Some More Dairy

Of course dairy tops the list of must-have foods for good dental health. That's not limited to milk, either, dairy products like cheese and yogurt count. Dairy is able to raise pH levels in the mouth, making it an uncomfortable place for cavity-causing bacteria to live.

A 2013 study published in General Dentistry reports a change in the pH of the participant's mouth after consuming dairy products like cheese or yogurt. The study author found a pH level lower than 5.5 meant an increased risk of decay, but eating dairy foods raises it above that level.

Cut Out the Problem Foods

Sugar is quite literally food for bacteria that live in the mouth. These microorganisms produce a sticky substance that clings to the enamel on teeth, trapping bacteria there. When you eat sugary foods like chocolate, you provide the trapped bacteria with the substance they need to thrive and, eventually, create a hole in your tooth.

Of course, candy is not the only food you need to avoid for good oral health. You should also limit your intake of:

  • Cakes
  • Breads
  • Potato chips
  • Pretzels
  • French fries
  • Bananas
  • Dried fruits

These foods are high in sugar content and have the same effect as candy. Use caution with drinks that are acidic, too, like coffee or tea. They not only leave some ugly stains, but the acid works away at tooth enamel.

Make (Fluoridated) Water Your Go-to Drink

If you are really looking to make a change that counts, then make fluoridated water your drink of choice. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay because it makes teeth more resistant to plaque bacteria. It is also shown to reduce small cavities before they get too deep.  

For most people, that means getting a glass of water from the kitchen tap. Even filtered water provides that boost of fluoride that you need for dental health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that almost 75 percent of community water systems have fluoride in it.

What will not have fluoride in it are those fancy bottled waters many people like to drink. While drinking bottled water won’t increase your risk of dental disease, it does mean that you are missing out on one of the best sources of protection for teeth. Consider getting a filter for your kitchen tap instead of spending money on bottled water. If you do prefer your water come a bottle, then you might want to look for brands that add extra fluoride into their products. You want something with 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million of fluoride, according to the ADA.

Your diet is your best line of defense against diseases of all kinds, including the ones that affect your oral health. It's time to make some changes to reduce your risk of dental disease.

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Topics: Dental Care, Preventative Care