Food and Nutrition

The Best Foods for Teeth and Gum Health, According to Dentists and Dietitians

Kara Jillian Brown

Photo: Getty Images / Granger Wootz
Certain foods are pretty bad for your teeth and gums. But there are also foods that make them healthier. The bits of food that remain in your mouth after eating are particularly pesky, says dentist Sophya N. Morghem, DMD, MS.

"If the food is acidic, sweet, or a simple carbohydrate, it can increase your risk of tooth wear and decay," says Dr. Morghem. "Along with that, your food provides nutrients that help remineralize the teeth and keep them strong."

And it's not just about the nutrients—the texture of the food you eat can also impact your oral health.

"Corn nuts, candies, sunflower seeds, popcorn kernels—all these can increase the risk of tooth fracture," says Dr. Morghen. "Chewing ice can put excessive forces on the teeth leading to an increased risk of fracture as well. Certain foods help cleanse the teeth as you eat and reduce plaque build-up such as raw vegetables and sharp cheese."

When building a diet full of foods for teeth and gum health, registered dietitian Yasi Ansari, MS, RDN, says you want to eat a varied diet full of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, C, and D.

"Eating a variety of foods will help to ensure an individual is consuming a wide range of nutrients that can help keep teeth and gums strong and healthy throughout different stages of life," says Ansari, who is a national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Ansari says that calcium is great for strong teeth and bones. She suggests eating calcium-rich foods like yogurt, fortified soy beverage, almond beverage, milk, tofu, bok choy, collard greens, and almonds. Phosphorous and vitamin D help to make the calcium we eat even more effective. "Phosphorus helps to protect our teeth and helps support calcium in building strong teeth," she says. "Vitamin D helps to increase calcium absorption." For phosphorus, she says to eat foods like eggs, nuts, and beans. You'll find vitamin D in fortified foods like cereal and milk and in fatty fish. "It is also common to supplement with vitamin D since it can be hard to get all of one’s daily needs through food alone," says Ansari.

These are a dietician's favorite foods rich in vitamin D:

Foods rich in vitamins A and C can help support your hum health. Pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and carrots are great sources of vitamin A. For vitamin C, Ansari recommends tomatoes, bell peppers, mangos, and citrus fruits. "Be mindful of citrus fruits as consuming too many foods higher in acid can cause damage to one’s tooth enamel," says Ansari.

Peppers and tomatoes are nightshades, learn more about them here:

To get the most out of these nutrients, Ansari recommends eating them regularly. "I encourage a daily eating pattern that includes these foods as part of a well-balanced intake and one that includes a variety of nutrients," she says.

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