Most people are generally aware of foods good for healthy teeth and gums and be more careful to those bad foods that is bad for your teeth.
Dental health is important for general health, and it turns out that many of the things that are good for teeth are also good for you. Let’s not forget that central to good teeth is a regular and thorough regime of twice daily brushing and once daily flossing. If you remove the bacterial plaque build up, you reduce the incidence of tooth decay and gum disease.
Most of us already know that consumption of food and drinks containing sugar are not good for dental health as they feed the bacteria that cause tooth decay. Gum disease is also adversely impacted by the presence of sticky plaque that causes bleeding and inflammation of the gums.
For the most part, if it is overly processed, it is likely to be more harmful. Which means whole foods and those that are fibre – rich should be chosen ahead of those in packages with refined carbohydrates and sugars. Acidity, either naturally occurring (in things like citrus fruits and juice) or added (flavouring in soft drinks and lollies) contributes to erosion or dissolving of the enamel of your teeth. Sugar and acid are known to dentists as the two biggests risks to oral health.
The temptation for junk food is a problem even oral health professionals face, but nature serves up some healthy alternatives to help keep you smiling.
Cheese And Other Dairy
Calcium is one of the building blocks of tooth structure so it makes sense that foods containing this in abundance will be helpful. Calcium, and phosphate that are found in dairy products can have a reparative effect on the tooth surface, which means that there is a direct benefit at the time of consumption. The added bonus is that cheese counteracts acidity levels in the mouth which reduces the likelihood of erosion and helps to create a more harmonious environment.
Unsweetened or flavoured milk and yoghurt also provide necessary calcium and reduce acidity. There are naturally occuring sugars in dairy products, so it is important not to consume in excess. Problems can also occur when giving infants and toddlers bottles of milk to help them sleep. In the situation where the milk is in constant contact with the teeth, decay can arise.
Foods High in Fibre
Celery is a great example of a high fibre food that is beneficial for dental health. Not only is it low in sugars, the fibrous nature has a cleaning effect when you chew it. The resulting plaque removal will reduce gum disease and improve oral health. Foods that require more chewing and effort to get through result in greater saliva production.
Raw carrot sticks are another example of a fibrous snack food that is beneficial for your teeth. Nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds are also high in fibre and low in sugar.
Plain Tap Water
Possibly the least exciting item on the list of drinks and foods good for healthy teeth and gums. Dentists will agree that nothing is better when it comes to rehydration. It’s free, is not acidic and it helps your body to produce saliva which reduces sticky plaque. Depending where you live, it also contains fluoride at safe levels.
This is a naturally occuring sugar that has different properties to that of commonly used glucose or sucrose. It is used as an alternative in some foods such as mints, gums or lollies, and in some more specialised dental care products. You can also use it as a substitute for sugar when baking at home. Studies have shown that Xylitol can be beneficial to your dental health because bacteria that cause tooth decay cannot digest it. This can lead to a more favourable balance of the oral environment with less harmful bacteria.
Binging vs Grazing
Oral health professionals understand that a life with only celery sticks and water would be pretty boring. What is important is trying to get the balance between enjoying your food, and caring for your teeth. From a dentist’s perspective, enjoying your sweet treats by binging a lot in one go is better than having sugar containing foods on your teeth all day.
If you imagine a scenario where you eat a bag of lollies while watching a movie vs eating 1 lolly every 30 minutes for an entire day. That same amount of sugar is consumed very differently. If you have sugar on your teeth for 2 hours during the movie, and brush your teeth soon after, there is a reduced risk of dental decay as opposed to having sugar on your teeth for 9 – 10 hours. Obviously there are other health impacts of consuming this much sugar, but binging is always better than grazing!