While these basics of oral hygiene are drilled into us from an early age, there are a number of additional steps you can take to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Choosing the right type of toothbrush, for instance, is incredibly important; same goes for waiting to brush after eating acidic foods.
Let's stay focused on the topic of how the foods we eat impact our oral hygiene for a moment. While we usually associate food with damaging teeth, certain ones can actually help boost enamel, fight gum disease, prevent cavities, and aid with general dental health.
“A healthy diet containing fruit and crunchy vegetables will help remove plaque from your teeth,” says Dr. Marc Lowenberg, D.D.S. of Lowenberg, Lituchy, and Kantor. “Also, a low sugar diet will reduce the amount of plaque that sticks to your teeth, which causes decay and gum disease.”
The biggest culprit when it comes to damaging teeth, according to Dr. Lowenberg, is eating foods that stick to the surface. “If your diet is made out of primarily pasta and bread, which turn into sugars, it can contribute to poor oral health. People that drink a lot of liquor tend to have a drier mouth, too. Also, using mouthwash with a high alcohol content can cause bad breath, so make sure to always rinse your mouth with water after.”
While nothing can replace diligent flossing and brushing, a balanced diet will certainly contribute to a healthier mouth and less inflammation overall. Read on for the foods good for teeth that can help boost your dental hygiene.
Here, a look at 8 foods good for teeth and gums
1. Crunchy vegetables
“I suggest stocking up on crunchy vegetables. This is because the ruffage will remove some plaque, which is a bacterial substance that sticks to the surface of your teeth,” says Dr. Lowenberg. Just one more reason to love crunchy carrots, broccoli, bell peppers, and juicy jicama.
2. Dairy products
“Milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products are great for strengthening tooth enamel and fighting against cavities, as they are high in calcium and protein,” explains Dr. Jeffrey Sulitzer, D.M.D., chief clinical officer with SmileDirectClub. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), almost all calcium in the body is stored in bones and teeth, where it supports their structure and hardness. Calcium deficiency has been shown to increase risk of teeth loss. For vegan sources of calcium that will help maintain the strength of your teeth, see here.
“You want to look for nuts free of additives, specifically sugar, and ones that are high in fiber and calcium, such as almonds, which can help strengthen tooth enamel,” says Dr. Sulitzer. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), nuts are also great for teeth because they're low in carbohydrates, which activates acid-producing bacteria that can lead to tooth decay. Another benefit is that chewing on nuts helps stimulate the production of saliva, which can also reduce your risk for tooth decay.
4. Leafy vegetables
“Leafy vegetables, like romaine lettuce and spinach, that contain folate can strengthen enamel, guard against gum disease, and reduce gum inflammation,” Dr. Sulitzer says. Other folate-rich foods include edamame, lentils, asparagus, and black beans.
5. Onions and garlic
“Many people don’t know that not only will these aromatic superfoods make your dishes tastier, but they are also beneficial for the teeth,” says Dr. Catrise Austin, D.D.S., a dental expert with Listerine. She goes on to explain that onions and garlic both have properties that can lower the bacteria that causes gum inflammation, tooth decay, cavities, and bad breath. (Yes, garlic may actually help prevent bad breath...at least long-term).
6. Shiitake mushrooms
“Shiitake mushrooms contain a polysaccharide—a type of carbohydrate—called lentinan, which regulates the immune system and breaks down plaque and bacteria in your mouth for healthier gums and teeth,” says Dr. Austin. “Try adding shiitake mushrooms to your omelettes, soups, or mixed vegetable sautés to reap the oral health benefits.”
“Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help make your mouth more resistant to advanced gum infections and can surprisingly help your gums heal more quickly during gum disease treatments,” Dr. Austin explains. “Other fish rich in omega-3s are mackerel, tuna, cod, sardines, and herring.”
“Believe it or not, strawberries can remove stains from your teeth,” says Austin. “Strawberries have an acid called malik acid in them that has unique whitening properties.” Same goes for apples.
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