An apple a day keeps the doctor away. But what about the dentist? Are there foods that can help protect and maintain your oral health in between your biannual cleanings and examinations? Yes, there are. There are also foods you’ll likely want to avoid if you’re interested in keeping your teeth healthy, attractive, and strong.
The Good Guys
The best foods for your teeth are:
- Raw fruits and vegetables - Crunchy and raw vegetables and fruits help keep your teeth clean, promote saliva production, and offer a great alternative to foods with added sugar.
- Raw nuts and seeds - Many nuts and seeds are high in calcium and phosphorus, both of which are needed for strong and healthy teeth.
- Dairy products - Similar to nuts and seeds, milk, yogurt, and cheese contain calcium and can help strengthen the teeth. Dairy also increases saliva production...just watch out for added sugars.
- Xylitol as a sugar substitute - Xylitol is a naturally occurring carbohydrate that gets extracted from plants. It tastes sweet, but unlike sugar, it doesn't get converted in the mouth into acids that cause tooth decay. It actually reduces the levels of decay-causing bacteria in saliva.
Drink a lot of water throughout the day and remember that even when eating healthy foods, you should brush your teeth thirty minutes after meals and snacks. This will help remove residual debris, acids, and bacteria that can lead to problems.
The Bad Guys
Foods that are best enjoyed only occasionally include:
- Candy and foods with added sugar - Sugar does not cause cavities, but the bacteria attracted to it can – and quickly.
- Simple starches - In addition to sugar, bacteria also love things like white bread and chips.
- Sodas, juices, and sports drinks - These can erode enamel, lead to tooth discoloration, and increase risks for infection and decay.
Things like dried fruit are similar to candy in their sugar content and will encourage rapid bacterial response in the exact same manner. Children, in particular, are at risk of damage from these sticky and sugary snacks. Opt for fresh and raw fruits and vegetables instead.