An old saying goes - "You are what you eat." And, this stands true for your teeth and gums too. When you consume highly acidic or sugary foods, besides feeding yourself, you're also feeding the bacteria that can lead to cavities and gum disease in your mouth. Many foods and beverages that we consume on a daily basis can cause plaque, an invisible, thin, sticky film of bacteria that does seriously damage your teeth and gum. When we eat a sugary snack or beverage, the sugars can cause the bacteria to release acids that attack your tooth's enamel, thus making it prone to cavities. On the other hand, there are some other foods and drinks that are teeth-friendly and can even help reverse the early signs of tooth decay.
In short, some foods encourage tooth decay while some others help fight plaque buildup. Read on to know more about some foods to seek out and some to stay away from.
The good guys
Consuming whole grains in low-sugar, cereals, fruits, vegetables, and quality protein is good for a healthy set of teeth. Chewing firm, coarse, watery, and fibrous foods like fruits and vegetables produce more saliva in your mouth, removing leftover food particles.
- Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables: As per American Dental Association (ADA), foods that contain fiber help keep your teeth and gums clean by producing more saliva. Vegetables like spinach, chard, kale, or collard greens are rich sources of vitamins and minerals that can help keep your teeth enamel healthy. Leafy vegetables are rich in folic acid, calcium, and vitamins, which help your gum health. Along with good home dental care, the consumption of fiber-rich food is the best natural defense to fight cavities and gum disease.
- Dairy products: LIke fiber-rich vegetables, many dairy products are another saliva maker. Cheese, yogurt, and milk stimulate the body to produce more saliva that protects your teeth. They are also rich sources of calcium and protein that help strengthen your teeth and rebuild your teeth' enamel. Yogurt has a beneficial bacteria - probiotics for your digestive system. The plaque-producing germs in your mouth can be neutralized by drinking milk.
- Green and black teas: Unsweetened black and green teas contain polyphenols that fight against plaque bacteria. These substances can either hold back or kill bacteria. Polyphenols in green tea, along with green tea extracts, inhibit bacterial growth. Green tea is also proven to reduce the acidity of saliva and dental plaque, thus helping prevent cavities.
- Sugarless chewing gum: If you have the habit of munching something every time, choose a sugarless chewing gum. They are great makers of saliva that removes leftover food particles from your mouth.
- Nuts and lean proteins: Meat, poultry, fish, tofu, etc., are rich in lean proteins and are good to keep teeth healthy. Besides offering many important nutrients essential for our body, including teeth, chewing meat produces more saliva. This helps to decrease acidity in the mouth and washes away the leftover food particles in the mouth that lead to cavities. The phosphorus present in fatty fish (like salmon) and tofu can help to protect tooth enamel.
- Foods with fluoride: Everyone knows the benefits of fluoride to protect our teeth. Any products made with fluoridated drinking water can serve their purpose - this includes powdered, unsweetened juices and dehydrated soups. Commercially prepared foods like seafood, powdered cereals, and poultry products can also provide fluoride.
The bad guys
Stay away from these foods that can damage your teeth:
- Sticky candies and sweets. Eating lollipops, caramels, and cough drops that have refined sugar can adversely affect your teeth and can cause decay. If you or your child develops cravings for candies, opt for dark chocolates as they can be washed off from the teeth more quickly than other candies. Dark chocolate has some health benefits too.
- Starchy foods: Avoid starchy foods like soft bread and potato chips as they can get trapped between your teeth. Such foods loaded with starch become sugar that can get caught in and between the teeth and feed the cavity-causing bacteria in the plaque.
- Carbonated soft drinks: These drinks are the major source of added sugar among kids and teenagers. Soda also contains phosphoric acid and citric acids that wear away tooth enamel.
- Substances that dry out your mouth: Alcohol and certain medicines can dry out your mouth. Saliva is needed to keep our teeth healthy by preventing food from sticking to our teeth. Saliva is also proven helpful in repairing early signs of gum disease, tooth decay, and other oral infections. Avoid alcohol and medications that cause drying out of the mouth. If medicines are the cause of your dry mouth, talk with your dental care provider about getting a fluoride rinse or gel for brushing your teeth.
Foods to Avoid When You Have a Toothache
However, if you have a toothache, you may need to avoid eating certain foods that will worsen the toothache and make chewing a challenge. While you're suffering from a toothache, avoid the following food items:
- Citrus fruits.
- Spicy and salty foods.
- Raw vegetables.
This is advised because foods like meat, raw vegetables, etc., are hard to chew and can worsen toothache. Acidic, salty, or spicy foods may irritate your gums. Also, avoid rinsing with a commercial mouthwash that contains alcohol.
Smart snacking can help keep your mouth in good health. Do not snack too often, as it is more likely that you are introducing more acid attacks on your teeth. If you do snack, forgo sugary treats and opt for nutritious choices. Also, brush your teeth or rinse your mouth well after snacking to keep cavities at bay.