When we think of dental care, we tend to think only of the three big tasks: brushing, flossing and using mouthwash. However, there are certain foods that can help your overall dental health as well. In fact, you may be eating or drinking several of these foods and not even know that they are good for your teeth. After learning about these foods, you'll want to pack even more of them into your daily meals as well as center family meals around them. Let's take a closer look at several foods that have a positive impact on your teeth.
It's no secret that dairy contains calcium, and since calcium helps keep your teeth and enamel strong, it follows that dairy would be good for your overall dental health. However, there are a few other reasons why dairy is good for your teeth. There are three main foods in the dairy category to consider.
A glass of milk is the most common recommendation given to supplement your diet with calcium, and this is the first benefit you can expect whenever you drink milk. A regular diet that contains calcium will help you keep your teeth longer, especially if you are older. In addition, studies have shown that milk can neutralize acid in the mouth just like it neutralizes spicy foods. Acids like to attack teeth and break them down, and if you drink milk after an acid-heavy meal, it will actually slow or stop the acid from impacting your teeth. It turns out milk offers several benefits for the teeth, not just the intake of calcium. (Note: mixing milk with sugary cereals negates the positive effects of acid neutralization. Keep this in mind before you pour that bowl of sugary cereal.)
Similar to milk, cheese is able to neutralize acids in the mouth. An additional benefit of eating cheese comes in the act of chewing. As you chew the cheese, your mouth creates saliva, which helps to wash away acids as they are being neutralized. This means cheese presents an even more effective way of cleaning and protecting teeth. Plus cheese can be inserted into other foods unlike milk, adding flexibility to the meals you plan with dairy in them. Of course, the calcium content is still present in cheese as well.
Finally, yogurt is another food that can do good things for your mouth and teeth, but the reason is somewhat different than milk or cheese. Yogurt is known for its friendly bacteria that helps digestion and immunity in your body, but those friendly bacteria can also make a difference in your mouth. The good bacteria found in yogurt are used to combat bad bacteria in your body, and they can do the same thing to the bad bacteria found on your teeth. As you eat yogurt, the good bacteria are exposed to the bad bacteria and they stop any negative impact for a period of time. Just remember, sugary yogurt won't be good for your teeth because the introduction of sugar will counteract any good from the yogurt bacteria.
Fruits and vegetables that are crunchy can actually act as a toothbrush whenever you eat them, and they will help clean your teeth as you enjoy the food. A great example of this is celery. As you bite into celery, your teeth work to separate the bite from the rest of the stalk, and the fibers of the celery drag along your teeth, removing loose plaque and other food particles. Other fruits and vegetables that have this effect include apples, carrots, and cucumbers. Remember that these vegetables work best when raw. If you cook them, they will soften and loose any cleaning effect.
You really can't get enough calcium into your diet, especially as you grow older. Dairy may not be a viable dietary option for some, and in cases like that, leafy greens and almonds can help supplement calcium intake. In addition, these foods are great for your overall nutrition. Try combining them together in a salad for maximum dental health benefits. Other foods that have been shown to fight tooth decay are proteins like fish, eggs and meat. While we can consider calcium the main building block for teeth, phosphorus is an essential element as well. Proteins are a great source of phosphorus, and as long as you're not consuming these proteins in excess with every meal, they are a healthy choice to consider for your teeth.
One final tooth-friendly food comes in the form of sugarless gum. Although you may not technically consider it a food because you don't swallow it, sugarless gum is an efficient way to clean your teeth after a meal when a brush isn't handy. The gum helps remove food from hard to reach places and increases saliva production to wash away harmful acids. Just be sure you check the label before chewing. Some gums are marketed as good for your teeth, but they contain sugar, which is harmful. Only chew sugarless gum if you want to help your teeth.
Eating good foods for your teeth and brushing, flossing and using mouthwash are just part of the equation. You need to have regular checkups with your dentist to ensure your mouth is healthy. If it has been a while, we encourage you to schedule a friendly checkup with Grace & Leedy Family Dentistry today!