How to Improve the Health of Your Teeth through Diet
By: Petya Boyadzhieva, Dominican University Nutrition Student
Brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste and flossing are crucial for healthy teeth and gums, but did you know that what you eat has a great impact on your teeth, too? According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the foods you choose and how often you eat them can either cause or prevent tooth decay, one of the most common dental problems. While a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals is important for overall health, certain foods and the nutrients they contain are more beneficial for your teeth than others. Want to know how to keep smiling and limit your visits to the dentist? Chew on this . . .
Packed with protein and essential nutrients, this dairy food is more than a delicious treat – – it works magic on your teeth. Cheese is rich in calcium and phosphorus, which strengthens the enamel and helps rebuild the tooth. Certain types of cheese (cheddar, gouda, and feta) contain probiotics, which can lower the amount of cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth. In addition, nibbling on cheese can increase saliva production, which washes away germs from your teeth. Last but not least, cheese has the highest anti-cavity properties of all dairy products because it neutralizes acidity in the mouth. This means that you can enjoy your coffee, tea, and wine without worrying about your dental health. To reap the health benefits of cheese: nibble on a slice throughout your meal or while sipping your favorite wine; try adding it to snacks, such as these tasty caprese bites, or to salads, such as this classic Greek salad.
The Dental Superfoods
Plant-based foods are rich in antioxidants, which are powerful molecules that offer several health benefits. According to the latest research, the antioxidants in tea, cocoa, and cranberries can also benefit your dental health. Sipping on some black or green tea may help keep your teeth in great condition by reducing the amount of germs in the mouth. Snacking on cocoa-rich foods, such as dark chocolate, can prevent the formation of plaque. As a matter of fact, due to it’s anti-bacterial effects, cocoa may be more effective than fluoride when it comes to fighting cavities. Eating cranberries, on the other hand, can benefit your teeth by preventing germs from attaching to the tooth’s surface and inhibiting tooth decay. To reap the heal benefits of these dental superfoods: enjoy healthy, dark chocolate recipes like this dark chocolate with sea salt fondue; try tossing cranberries into salads, trail mix, and cereals such as this nutrient-rich orange cranberry oatmeal.
The Truth about Alternative Sweeteners
Foods high in added sugar, such as cakes, candy, and granola bars are particularly harmful to teeth, but are foods made with sugar substitutes a better option? According to a systematic review article published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, the answer is yes. The results revealed that foods made with sugar alcohols (polyols) nutritive sweeteners that have fewer calories and are naturally less sweet than sugar can actually reduce the risk of tooth decay. You’ll find sugar alcohols (for example mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol) naturally in berries, fruits, and vegetables and added to beverages, chewing gum, candies, and certain snacks. Other commonly used sugar substitutes, such as sucralose and saccharin, are also considered hypo- or non-cariogenic (not causing tooth decay) due to the inability of bacteria in the mouth to metabolize them. Next time you have a sugar dilemma, reach for a sugar substitute instead of regular sugar.
Brush up on These Tips:
Now that you know how to eat your way to healthy and strong teeth, incorporate these easy steps into your daily life:
- End your meal with a slice of your favorite cheese to neutralize the damaging effects of many acidic foods, such as citrus fruits, grains, and tomatoes.
- Drink at least one cup of black or green tea a day to lower the amount of germs in your mouth.
- Avoid snacking between meals, and if you do choose to snack, grab a teeth-friendly option, such as dark chocolate, nuts, or cranberries.
- Chew xylitol or sorbitol gum after meals and snacks for optimal dental hygiene.