Healthy Food Choices for Healthy Smiles

Everyone knows that sugary foods and drinks can cause tooth decay. But there are other types of foods to watch out for, as well as many dietary choices that can improve oral health.

Diet Choices for Good Health

Early in life, calcium and phosphorus are two minerals that play an important role in tooth formation.  Calcium and phosphorus also are important for bone development and maintenance (think bone loss from gum disease). Foods that are rich in calcium include: cheese, milk, plain yogurt, leafy greens, almonds and calcium-fortified tofu. Protein-rich foods that are also great sources of phosphorus include meat, poultry, fish, milk and eggs.

In addition to being essential to overall health, fruits and vegetables are also great for a healthy smile. High in water and fiber, they help balance out the sugars they contain and help to clean your teeth.

Fruits and vegetables also stimulate saliva production, a natural aid to tooth health. Saliva not only helps wash food particles from teeth, it also helps neutralize acids in your mouth protecting your teeth from demineralization. Many fruits and vegetables also contain vitamin C, which is important for healthy gums, and vitamin A, another key nutrient for building tooth enamel.

Things in Your Diet to Watch Out For

Bacteria in your mouth feed on sugars, releasing acids that lead to tooth decay. You know about candy and cookies—but be aware that other snack foods such as chips contain sugars or “carbs” that can adhere to your teeth. Read food labels—ingredients are listed in order of amount, and sugars are usually near the top in snack foods. Here’s a tip: words ending in “-ose” (glucose, sucrose, etc.) indicate a sugar ingredient. And “natural” sugar is still sugar.

Soda is another obvious culprit—but many “juices” also have high amounts of added sugar. And sports drinks may be great at replenishing minerals and electrolytes following exercise, but most are packed with sugar as well. Even otherwise nutritious foods like tomatoes and citrus fruits can have acidic effects on tooth enamel, so eat them as part of a meal, not by themselves. If you must snack between meals, choose cheese, yogurt, fruits, vegetables or nuts over processed snack foods.

If you must have a sugar fix, steer clear of gummies and sticky candies and opt for milk chocolate or better yet dark chocolate.

4 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Cavities

(from the American Dental Association):

  1. Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes to remove sugars and food particles from your teeth.
  2. Limit between-meal snacking.
  3. Keep added sugar in your diet to a minimum by making wise food and beverage choices.
  4. Include dairy, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and water in your diet—they all play a role in your dental health.

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