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Best and Worst Foods for Your Teeth

Cartoon teeth with milk vs. soda

According to the CDC, over 90% of adults in the United States have had dental caries (tooth decay). Nearly 48% have some form of periodontal disease (gum disease). While there are effective treatments available for these conditions, the best thing you can do for your oral health is to prevent these problems in your teeth and gums from occurring. One of the key factors for healthy teeth is your diet. Please continue reading to find out the best and worst foods for your teeth.

What foods are worst for your teeth?

You should try to avoid these foods and drinks as much as possible because they can erode dental enamel substantially. 

  • Sticky candies and sweets. When you eat sticky sweets, the harmful bacteria in your mouth feed off the sugar. These bacteria produce harmful acid that can erode tooth enamel. This can lead to the formation of cavities (holes in your teeth). Over time, a bacterial infection can worsen and lead to a tooth abscess. Hard candy dissolves slowly and sticky candy can remain stuck to your teeth, worsening the problem. If you want to eat something sweet, consider something like dark chocolate, which has health benefits and washes off the teeth more quickly. 
  • Starchy or sugary foods. Foods like potato chips, bread, and other refined carbohydrates and sugary drinks form harmful acids when they come in contact with plaque. This erosive acid production is bad for your teeth and can erode enamel. Eat sugary foods in limited amounts, limit between-meal snacks, and brush your teeth afterward.
  • Carbonated soft drinks. Too many sugary sodas, sports drinks, and energy drinks that contain added sugar are horrible for your teeth. Also, most soft drinks contain phosphoric and citric acids that can wear down tooth enamel. Drink water or sugar-free diet sodas as much as possible. 
  • Alcohol. Saliva keeps the mouth moist and helps clear plaque and bacteria from the tooth enamel. Alcohol dries the mouth and reduces saliva flow, which can harm teeth and gums

What foods are good for your teeth?

To prevent tooth decay and gum disease and maintain a healthy mouth, ensure that you include plenty of the following foods in your diet.

  • Fiber-rich foods. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), foods like fruits and vegetables have a high water and fiber content that balances their natural sugars and helps to keep your teeth clean. The chewing generates saliva flow and helps to wash away harmful acids. Also, these foods act as a natural enamel whitener for red wine and coffee-stained teeth.
  • Dairy products. Milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products are low in sugar and contain nutrients like calcium and protein needed for good oral health. 
  • Lean proteins. Fish, poultry, and tofu contain phosphorus that helps to keep teeth healthy and strong. 
  • Nuts. Almonds are low in sugar and are a good source of protein and calcium.
  • Tea. Unsweetened green and black teas are good for your teeth. They contain compounds called polyphenols that fight the bacteria present in plaque, which produce harmful acid. 
  • Textured foods. Certain foods like apples, carrots, and celery have a texture that can help to scrape food particles from your teeth. These foods are also rich in vitamins that are necessary for a healthy mouth.
  • Sugarless gum. If you have eaten a sugary snack or meal, chewing sugarless gum afterward can increase saliva flow and help to remove food particles stuck between your teeth.

What food is good for strong teeth?

One of the best ways to avoid poor oral health is to build strong teeth. Here are some of the best foods to eat for strong teeth. 

  • Calcium: This mineral is present in low-fat or fat-free dairy products, fortified soy milk, tofu, almonds, green leafy vegetables, and salmon.
  • Phosphorus: This is an essential mineral for strong teeth and is found in lean meat, fish, eggs, nuts, dairy, and beans.
  • Vitamin C: This vitamin is essential for gum health. Food sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, and potatoes.

What foods reverse tooth decay?

It is usually not possible to completely reverse tooth decay with diet alone. However, here are some foods that can help the process.

  • Calcium strengthens tooth enamel. Dairy is the best source of calcium. Other sources include seafood, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, olives, and figs.
  • Vitamin D is needed to help the body absorb calcium and phosphorus. Spending time in the sun can boost your vitamin D levels. Food sources of vitamin D are limited but include egg yolks, salmon, sardines, and mushrooms. Talk to your doctor about checking your vitamin D levels and supplementing if necessary.
  • Magnesium is required for repairing tooth enamel. Food sources of magnesium include cacao, avocado, and leafy greens.
  • Phosphorus can help to protect you against tooth decay. This mineral is present in eggs and dairy products. 

What foods should you avoid to heal cavities naturally?

Keep in mind that for most people diet alone is not sufficient to treat cavities that have already formed. You should seek care from a dentist to prevent complications in the future. Nonetheless, certain foods promote bacteria growth and avoiding them can help to heal cavities naturally. You should avoid the following foods as much as possible.

  • Phytic acid. This acid prevents absorption of nutrients and minerals that are needed for good dental health, such as calcium and magnesium. Foods like rice, lentils, wheat, beans, soybeans, corn, and almonds are rich in phytic acid.
  • Starchy foods and refined carbohydrates. Simple starches are some of the worst foods for oral health because they are converted to sugar almost immediately. Harmful bacteria in your mouth feed on these foods, multiply, and eventually cause tooth decay and gum disease. Example of simple starches include white rice, white bread, pasta, and saltine crackers. 
  • Sugary foods and drinks. As mentioned above, sugar feeds plaque bacteria in the mouth that cause cavities. Also, sugary foods and drinks are low in nutrients that the body needs to build healthy teeth. Foods to avoid include cakes, cookies, sweetened fruit juices, hard candies, etc.
  • Acidic foods and drinks. Certain foods and drinks are naturally acidic and can wear away the enamel of your teeth, thus worsening tooth decay. You should avoid as much as possible sodas, coffee, grapefruit and lemon juice, sports drinks, energy drinks, alcohol, and kombucha (which many people think is healthy but it is acidic). Rinse your mouth after consuming any of these drinks if you must consume them.
  • Dried fruit. Raisins and other dried fruits contain concentrated sugars that can be bad for your teeth. 

Now that you know some of the best and worst foods for your teeth, you can fine-tune your diet. If you combine this with a thorough job brushing and flossing, you’ll be on your way to optimum dental health.

 

References

  1. https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/nutrition-and-oral-health/healthy-foods-list-seven-best-foods-for-your-teeth
  2. https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/research/data-statistics/dental-caries/adults
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/conditions/periodontal-disease.html#
  4. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/nutrition/good-foods-slideshow