Our teeth are vital to both self-confidence and overall health. In our efforts to maintain a healthy, vibrant smile, however, many of us neglect one of the most important parts of oral health: our diets.
Try as we might to brush and floss regularly, certain foods affect our dental health more than we think. Just as the food we eat affects our bodies, these same starches, bacteria, and sugars will affect your mouth. If these harmful factors aren’t dealt with accordingly, you may find your oral health beginning to decline. In fact, it’s estimated that one in four people are suffering from untreated tooth decay, whether they know it or not. This tooth decay, in part, is caused by your dietary habits.
Here are some of the primary foods we eat that can contribute to poor oral health.
Sugary and Starchy Foods
Sugary foods and their starch-saturated counterparts are terrible for your teeth. This is because the sugar content will promote plaque growth on the outside of your teeth. The health issue gets especially bad in those hard-to-reach corners between your teeth and beneath your gumline.
The American Dental Association notes that high rates of sugar consumption are linked to higher numbers of cavities. Even if you ditch the chocolate for broccoli, you might still be experiencing tooth decay because of your consumption of sugary beverages. Coffee, soft drinks, alcohol, and energy drinks are all notorious for their high levels of sugar. Be sure to drink plenty of water following a sugary dish, then brush your teeth 20 minutes or so after you eat.
Acidic things, like coffee, wine, and citrus fruits are notorious for wearing down your sensitive tooth enamel. That’s why it’s so easy for coffee and wine to stain your teeth.
However, that doesn’t mean you cannot eat these foods once in a while. After all, citrus offers a smattering of healthy vitamins and nutrients your body can’t live without. Try ingesting these foods with a whole meal and plenty of water to balance any potentially harmful effects. Pairing them with other foods will work wonders to neutralize their dangerous qualities.
Sugary foods are often sticky, but sticky foods are particularly disastrous to your oral health. Between sticky caramels and starchy breads that love to cling to your teeth, many foods are prone to sticking around longer than they should. When these foods cling to the outside of your teeth, they promote bacteria growth. It isn’t uncommon for candy lovers to suffer from more than a couple cavities as a result.
Combat the sinister subversions of sticky foods by washing down your favorite treats with a cup of water. You should also substitute particularly sticky sweets for a healthier alternative. For example, switching to dark chocolate has added health benefits and it’s easier to wash out of your mouth than caramels and chocolate covered raisins.
The Best Foods
This long list makes it seem like no food is safe for our teeth. Unfortunately, all foods contain harmful bacteria that can wreak havoc on our dental health. However, some foods contain beneficial vitamins and nutrients that can help your teeth grow stronger and stay healthy in the long run.
Be sure to keep up on your dental care routine and then try adding these teeth-healthy foods to your diet.
Cheeses, chicken, and nuts: These protein-rich foods help to neutralize acids in your mouth. They do this by introducing neutral phosphorus or calcium minerals which are also great in returning these minerals back into your teeth.
Dark green vegetables: Dark green vegetables have no harmful carbohydrates which can lead to plaque build-up in your mouth. These veggies are also low in sugar and work to get your saliva flowing, a natural defense against harmful bacteria.
Firm fruits: Firm fruits are often rich with water, an important proponent of saliva production. These two elements will help battle the harmful effects of sugars present in the fruit. Opt for fiber-rich choices like pears and apples.
Fluoridated waters: Most of our drinking water contains some fluoride, but if you have particularly sensitive teeth, drinking fluoridated water can help strengthen your teeth even more. Opt for unsweetened teas if you like a little flavor in your water. Per usual, just be sure to avoid the sugar.
Whole grains: Whole grains aren’t as good as the other options on this list, but they’re much better than refined grains. Instead of ingesting white bread and white rice products, opt for oatmeal and wheat bread.
Sugarless gum: Most people don’t carry around a toothbrush wherever they go, so sugarfree gum is a great way to clean your teeth with minimal effort. Sugarless gum options will help increase saliva production in your mouth, thereby effectively dealing with the levels of bacteria and food tumbling around. It can also help you limit snacking between meals, another habit that contributes to poor oral health.
As always, you should remember to brush and floss your teeth twice per day in order to maintain a healthy mouth. If you want an even brighter smile, however, keep a sharp eye out for these potentially hazardous oral health habits.