When you think of keeping your teeth healthy, you probably won’t immediately think of food, unless you’re thinking of eating less sugar and candies. However, there are certain foods (known as ‘functional foods’) that can be good for your teeth. Promoting oral health is important, so understanding how these foods can assist you in keeping your mouth healthy can help you make the right decisions day to day.
Can tea really make your mouth a better place? Surely tea stains teeth and turns them from white into a strange kind of brown color? Well, although that might be the case if you drink a huge amount of tea and don’t brush your teeth, scientists have concluded that the polyphenols that are found in green and black teas do more good than harm. They slow the growth of cavity-causing bacteria and reduce the risk of gum disease. Simply, tea doesn’t allow some bacteria to clump together and stick to the enamel of your teeth. Not only that, but green or black tea can help eliminate bad breath too; the same polyphenol compounds that get in the way of the bacteria building up also suppress those same bacteria’s ability to produce smells and gases.
As strange as it may sound, cranberries contain the same polyphenols as tea does, and therefore cranberries also reduce the risk of cavities and stop plaque from sticking to teeth. Bear in mind, though, that cranberries are naturally extremely tart, and many bought from a store will have had extra sugar added, which undoes all the good you’re trying to do.
Most people know it’s a fact that calcium helps to build healthy bones and teeth, and that calcium is easily found in dairy products. However, it’s milk that usually gets the main billing, and it’s milk that parents often try to persuade their children to drink more regularly in order to help them grow and maintain a healthy smile. It may not be milk that’s best for this after all, though. It could, in fact, be cheese that does the best job when it comes to oral health and hygiene. When milk is drunk, there is no change in the pH level in the mouth. When you eat cheese the pH level drops, which means there is less harmful acid to eat away at the teeth. Plus, chewing, rather than drinking, produces more saliva, which helps to wash away some bacteria. It’s why sugarless gum can be a handy thing to have in your purse or pocket so you can quickly start chewing if you can’t get to your toothbrush. We’ve known this is the case for animals for a long time; that’s why vets recommend you give your dog chewy treats from VetIQ. Now it’s time for humans to learn the same lesson!
That’s not to say that milk is no longer required, of course. Drinking a glass of milk after eating something sweet reduces the levels of acid in the mouth that have been increased due to the excess sugar. It works better than fruit juice, or even plain water, to lower acid levels. However, don’t just add milk to your sugary cereal and think you’ve saved your teeth; when the milk mixes with the food it turns syrupy, and can actually do more harm than good.
Crunchy foods such as apples, carrots, or cucumbers are also good for teeth. This is because all that chewing and crunching can dislodge a lot of plaque that has built up, essentially deep cleaning your teeth as you eat.
Vitamin Rich Foods
There are many different types of vitamins that we need in our diets to ensure we stay healthy, so eating foods that contain those vitamins is a very good idea anyway. If you want to keep your teeth in good condition, it’s even more important. We’ve already mentioned calcium, and food containing calcium includes cheese, almonds, and leafy greens. Phosphorous is also important and can be found in fish, meat, and eggs. Phosphorous helps to keep tooth enamel healthy and strong. Once it’s gone, enamel doesn’t grow back, which is why it is essential to maintain it well when you have got it. Without enamel, teeth are much weaker, and are more sensitive to hot and cold.
Strawberries, apart from being delicious, offer your teeth some help as well. They contain malic acid, which is a natural tooth whitener. Eating the strawberries is fine (they’re good for you anyway), but if you really want to make a difference, you can make your own whitening paste. Pulp a strawberry, add baking soda and use a toothbrush to spread it on your teeth gently. Leave it for five minutes, rinse it all away, and your smile should be much whiter. It’s a good idea to floss when you’re done, as strawberry seeds tend to get lodged between teeth, causing infection or discomfort.
What To Avoid
Now that you know which foods you should be eating more of to give yourself a better smile and healthier mouth, it’s just as important to know which ones to avoid as much as possible. Citrus fruits and their juices might be good for your health, but they’re bad for your teeth, so have them sparingly. Grapefruit is particularly bad because of the high levels of acid that erode tooth enamel. If you do have juice or eat an orange, brush your teeth as soon as you can afterwards.
Caramels, taffy, and any other kind of chewy candy stick to your teeth for long periods of time, and that allows the oral bacteria to have a good feast on all the sugar there. Hard candy is also bad because it too deposits a lot of sugar in the mouth. It doesn’t stick to teeth in quite the same way as a toffee would, but because it takes longer to eat, it can cause some nasty damage.
Pickles utilize vinegar for the pickling process, but that means they are covered in acid, and although it might make them taste delicious, it also hurts your teeth. Snacking on pickles now and then, however, shouldn’t cause any long-term damage.