What’s on the menu for healthy teeth?

November 01, 2011

Healthy teeth starts with eating healthy foods

What you eat and drink plays an important role in keeping your teeth healthy. You probably already know the kinds of things that are bad for your teeth. Too many soft drinks, pastries, cakes and refined foods damage teeth over time. But fighting tooth decay is about more than staying away from the bad foods and drinks. It's also about adding the good foods, vitamins, and minerals to your diet.

As the old saying goes, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Well, recent studies have shown that an apple a day also helps keep the dentist away. In fact, many foods can help prevent tooth decay. Some of those foods are in season right now. Many others are available all year long.

How do you like them apples?

There are few foods better for your teeth than the apple. Many studies suggest that tooth decay can be prevented by regularly eating apples.

Best Health magazine reports that apples help cleanse your mouth properly. When you bite into an apple, it increases the production of saliva in your mouth. As you chew, the extra saliva reduces tooth decay by lowering the levels of bacteria.

But wait! There are even more tooth-healthy foods!

Of variety is the spice of life, variety is also good for your teeth. Other fruits and vegetables do come close to the tooth-protecting benefits of apples.

Carrots and cucumbers also help with this. In fact, many crunchy, crispy fresh fruits and vegetables are good for teeth. They stimulate your gums and boost the production of saliva. As a result, they flush away harmful sugars and bits of food in your mouth.

Livestrong.com recommends plenty of Vitamin C, calcium, phosphorous, and fluoride to promote strong teeth. You can find those in a range of foods.

For example, onion is considered very helpful in preventing tooth decay. You can add tasty sesame seeds to recipes for an ingredient that's rich in calcium. Lemons and limes also help promote healthy teeth and gums. These fruits are a rich source of Vitamin C.

WebMD.com reports that cranberries may also put the brakes on tooth decay. Hyun Koo is a dentist at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. Dr. Koo tested an ingredient in cranberries against bacteria, the leading cause of tooth decay. He discovered that cranberries weakened the bacteria and could provide protection for your teeth.

Raisins have also been found to fight bacteria in the mouth. Christine Wu at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry did the research. She found that raisins appeared to fight the bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease.

Simplyteeth.com reports that eating cheese is also great for your teeth. Eating cheese after a meal seems to work best. So having cheese for dessert could help prevent tooth decay. Cheese also helps repair tooth surfaces by protecting your enamel. Eating cheese is yet another way to weaken acids that can hurt your teeth. And cheese increases your mouth's saliva flow, which in turn washes away sugars.

Whole grains found in breads, cereals, and pastas provide B vitamins and iron. These work to help keep gums healthy. Whole grains have magnesium, too. Magnesium is important for strong bones and teeth. In fact, our bones and teeth hold about 70 percent of the body's magnesium. As an added bonus, whole grains are high in fiber, which has many health benefits.

Calcium, the strength behind strong teeth

Calcium is a prime ingredient for preventing tooth decay, especially for growing children. Dairy is the perfect source for your calcium-loving teeth. You and your teeth will benefit from milk, yogurt, and cheese. And here's some great news. You can find all the dairy you need in low-fat options.

Calcium is found in more than just dairy products, too. Other calcium-rich choices are leafy greens such as broccoli and bok choy. Calcium is also packed into almonds, Brazil nuts, and dried beans.

Drink to your tooth health

Eating right isn't the only natural way to protect your teeth. There are also many liquid ways to dental health. Drinking green or black tea delivers fluoride to the mouth. At the University of Illinois at Chicago, researchers made a surprising discovery. Black tea can slow the growth of a chemical that helps plaque stick to teeth. Plaque is a sticky film that forms on our teeth. It creates acids that can eat into the enamel. When you reduce the amount of plaque, you increase the health of your teeth.

You should also drink tap water with fluoride in it. That's an easy way to add a strong cavity fighter to your diet.

The better your snacks, the better your teeth

Some of the worst culprits of tooth decay are sticky, sugary snacks. But those snacks are usually what we munch on between meals. Try to stay away from sweets, because sugar works with plaque to harm enamel. Once the enamel is weakened, you're vulnerable to tooth decay.

When you want a snack, try cheese, raw vegetables, fruit, or plain yogurt.

You will benefit from eating raw vegetables as much as you can. They also massage the gums, which makes them healthier.

Don't spit out your gum

Yes, you can chew gum and protect your teeth. As long as the gum you're chewing is sugarless. Sugarless chewing gum stimulates saliva flow. It also helps remove plaque by rubbing against your tooth's surface. But be careful. Simplyteeth.com warns that chewing gum with sugar is no help at all. It just adds to the problem of too much sugar in the diet.

It's good to know you can eat well and strengthen your teeth at the same time. And you don't have to give up flavor, either. Just choose the right foods. That way, you'll have great teeth to bite into them.

Get your heart rate up without hurting

Low-impact exercises can be as effective as high impact—but be easier on joints.

Read about low-impact exercises
Basic causes of back pain and information on how to diagnose and treat symptoms for relief

Bent out of shape by back pain?

Find out what you need to know about common causes, diagnosis and treatment.

Read about back pain basics

Lead a happier, healthier life as a caregiver

Make time for yourself and lessen the stress even when you’re caught up in the hectic pace of caring for someone else.

Read about coping as a caregiver