Nutrition is one of the most influential factors in human health, and there’s plenty of evidence to show that eating a diet high in processed foods, salty snacks, and sugary sodas is one of the worst things you can do to your body. You are likely already aware that poor diet causes obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and many other chronic conditions. But did you know that what you put in your mouth has a direct effect on the health of your mouth — more specifically, your teeth?
Join us as we look at the best and worst foods to eat from a dental health perspective!
Avoid These Like the Proverbial Plague
Of course, some foods are notoriously bad for your teeth. Any kind of candy, for example, is the bane of dentists everywhere. Here are a few other cavity culprits to steer clear of.
Ooey, Gooey, Sticky, Sugary Treats
Hard candy, chewy nougat, caramel apples, toffee, peanut brittle, jawbreakers, and other confections can all wreak havoc with your chompers. If you’re going to indulge in piece of candy, dentists say, choose chocolate. It’s the type most easily washed off your teeth by saliva, so it’s a slightly better choice.
Red Wine, Coffee and Tea
Put down that merlot! Dark colored beverages like red wine, cola, black tea, and even that morning cup of joe will discolor your teeth over time. Before you know it, you’ll be due for a teeth whitening treatment.
If you just can’t make it through the day without your Americano or English breakfast tea, switch to sipping through a straw and be sure to rinse your mouth afterwards.
Soft Drinks, Even Diet Varieties
Soda is the worst of the bunch. Not only does it often contain caramel coloring, it is also loaded with added sugar. Even the diet types contain citric and phosphoric acids that can eat away tooth enamel.
Lots of people forego starchy carbs in order to lose weight, but there’s another good reason to say “buh-bye” to bread. Foods high in starch, like bread, muffins, potatoes, corn, pasta and the like can easily get stuck in between your teeth. There, they serve as a playground for bacteria, which ultimately leads to gingivitis, periodontitis, and other dental-related diseases.
Drying Drinks, Food, and Medication
Astringent foods and beverages, as well as many over-the-counter and prescription medications, can have a drying effect on the mouth. Alcoholic drinks are one of the worst offenders. Why is a dry mouth bad? It’s actually the absence of saliva that causes trouble.
“Saliva performs a number of vital functions for your oral health,” says Midlothian dentist Dr. Joy Moretti. “It washes away food particles and provides calcium, fluoride and phosphate ions to help strengthen the teeth at their surface.”
Foods That Benefit Your Pearly Whites
So what should you eat if you are striving for a healthier mouth? Let’s take a look.
Crunchy Fruits and Vegetables
We all know apples are anathema to doctors, but a good Empire or Fuji can help keep the dentist away, as well. Along with celery, cucumbers, carrots, and other crunchy fruits and vegetables, apples can act as a natural toothbrush. As you chew them, these foods disturb the plaque on your teeth so it can more easily be rinsed away with saliva.
Dairy products, nuts, leafy greens, and other items high in calcium help build stronger bones and — you guessed it — teeth. Drinking a glass of cow’s milk after a sugary meal can also help reduce the amount of acid in your mouth.
Calcium and phosphorus, which can be found in meat, fish, and eggs, also work wonders for your teeth by redepositing minerals back into tiny lesions formed on their enamel.
Cheese, Glorious Cheese
That’s right — munching on deliciously sharp cheddar or rich, creamy brie can actually be good for your dental health! It’s partly because cheese provides phosphorus and calcium, but cheese also assists in the regulation of pH levels in the mouth. Lower pH levels equal a lessened likelihood of cavities. So go ahead and top your taco with Monterey jack or snack on some smoked gouda.
Yogurt and Other Probiotic Offerings
Yogurt ticks just about all the boxes for mouth health. In addition to providing protein and calcium, it also offers a punch of probiotics. Also known as “good bacteria,” probiotics are great for your general health. When it comes to your teeth, they help offset the effects of their decay-causing counterparts.
Final Thoughts About Diet and Dental Health
Don’t worry, you can still say yes to your sweet tooth every once in a while. But to safeguard the health of all your other teeth, do your best to skip the sticky candy, bubbly sodas, and starchy snacks. Instead, opt for a crunchy crudite, a chunk of cheddar, or a handful of almonds. Your mouth will say thank you!
Do you whiten your teeth? Have you found that choosing white wine over red has made a difference in the appearance of your smile? What’s your favorite kind of cheese? Have your say in the comment section below!