The Best and Worst Food for Your Oral Health

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Posted November 1, 2012 by Tiffany Weekes
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The Best and Worst Food teeth
When it comes to protecting the health of your teeth, nothing helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease better than brushing and flossing daily. While a toothbrush and a packet of floss remain your best tools in the fight against plaque, a tooth-friendly diet can also play a major role in the health of your teeth.

A balanced diet that contains such nutrients as vitamin C and D, calcium, and flavonoids are vital to your oral health, and can help to promote healthy teeth and gums.

In addition to eating healthy, another important aspect of a tooth-friendly diet is to limit the amount of snacking you engage in on a daily basis. Most snack foods, such as candy bars and potato chips, contains sugars and starches that plaque, the sticky bacteria that lives in your mouth, uses to produce harmful acids that each away at the enamel on teeth.

During large meals, your mouth produces extra saliva that helps to neutralize these types of acids, while also washing away food particles. However, when snacking on a bag of chips or a cookie, your mouth produces much less salvia, which allows acids to linger on your teeth and plenty of remaining food particles to provide plaque with the fuel to produce more. Over time, these acids can cause tooth decay and gum disease.

The best way to limit cavities is to limit yourself to three meals a day or to brush your teeth following each time you snack. If brushing every time you eat or drink something that contains sugar or starch sounds like too big a hassle, you can also change your snacking habits to include foods that don’t present a danger to the health of your teeth.

Here are several types of good, and not so good, foods for your teeth.

Food to Avoid

Sugary drinks. Even though most people believe that the worst foods for their teeth are ones high in sugar, such as candy, carbonated sodas and sports drinks can actually cause greater damage to the health of your teeth. Not only do these types of drinks contain high levels of sugar, but the carbonation in these types of beverages helps to increase the acidity of your mouth. This increased level of acidity allows harmful plaque acids to cause even more damage to your teeth, which can result in some pockets forming on your teeth where bacteria can grow. When left untreated, this bacteria will eventually lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

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Sugar (Photo credit: dhammza)

Candy. Just because it might not sit at the top of the list of unfriendly foods for your teeth doesn’t mean candy isn’t harmful. The biggest threat comes from chewy or sticky candy, such as taffy, gummy bears, or caramel. These types of candy have a tendency to stick to your teeth for long periods of time, which provides harmful plaque with plenty of fuel to cause tooth decay.

Foods high in starch. Breads, potatoes, rice, and pastas all contain high levels of starch, which is another type of sugar. Like soda, starchy foods also help to raise the acidity levels in your mouth, which causes increased damage by plaque acids. Breakfast cereals and pastries are some of the worst offenders because they contain both high levels of sugar and starch.

Tea, coffee, and red wine. While these beverages don’t contribute as heavily to tooth decay, frequent consumption of these drinks can stain your teeth over time. Coffee and some types of tea are also high in acidity, which, once again, raises the level of acid in your mouth.

Healthy Foods and Drink for Your Teeth

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(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Water. A smart and healthy thirst quenching alternative to beverages loaded with sugar, drinking water not only saves you several hundred calories, it also helps to wash away harmful plaque acids from your teeth.

Sugar-free beverages. For times when you want to drink something with a little more flavor than water, try reaching for a sugar-free beverage, such as unsweetened fruit juice, instead.

Sugar-free gum. The American Dental Associations recommends chewing sugar-free gum after meals and as a substitute to snacking. Chewing gum causes your mouth to produce extra saliva, which can help neutralize harmful acids and wash away lingering food particles that remain after a meal. According to the ADA, regularly chewing sugar-free gum after meals can help reduce your risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease.

Citrus fruit. Even though citrus fruit contains high levels of acid, eating this type of fruit actually causes your mouth to produce more saliva, which negates this factor and helps to wash away harmful bacteria. Studies have even shown that eating grapefruits, oranges, and other types of citrus fruit actually helps to strengthen tooth enamel.

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 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Milk and cheese. Milk and cheese contain plenty of calcium, whey protein, and phosphorous that helps to buffer the effects of acids, and to protect your teeth through demineralization, a process that restores your teeth’s enamel.

Fish. As mentioned previously, the greatest threat to the health of your teeth is gum disease, which causes inflammation that can damage the tissue that connects your teeth and gums. Fish contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which works to diminish inflammation in the body.

Timothy Lemke writes about healthy ways to protect your teeth for Dr. Timothy Harbolt, a dentist in Salem Oregon at Smiles Dental.