What to Eat for Healthy Teeth

Mom used to say that eating sugary foods would rot your teeth. It turns out she was right.

Eating certain foods and avoiding others can greatly affect our oral health. This is especially true for children, but is also important for adults:

·         Toddlers: Good nutrition helps healthy teeth and gums develop.

·         Older children and teens: Eating well keeps cavities at bay.

·         Adults: Healthy foods help prevent gum disease.

The nutrition and dental health relationship works the other way, too. Without a healthy mouth, you couldn’t chew or swallow foods and absorb vital nutrients your body needs. Plus, research has shown a link between gum disease and heart disease risk.Tooth and dental instrument

Foods for your teeth

A good diet for dental health is no different than a diet that is nutritious for the rest of the body. Both the American Dietetic Association and the American Dental Association stress the importance of good nutrition for oral health. This means a diet that’s rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat and nonfat dairy products and lean sources of protein. Foods high in saturated and trans fats, salt and sugar should be limited.

These nutrients can help keep your mouth in tip top shape:

·         Protein helps teeth form. Kids who don’t get enough protein and are malnourished have a higher risk for cavities. Choose lean sources of protein like fish, chicken and beans. These foods are also high in iron, magnesium and zinc, which help to build teeth and bones.

·         Calcium and vitamin D strengthen teeth and bones. Low-fat and nonfat dairy products are high in both nutrients. Calcium can also be found in dark leafy greens and beans.

·         Vitamin A helps tooth enamel form. Orange fruits and vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A.

·         Vitamin B helps keep gum tissue healthy. Whole-grain breads and cereals and green, leafy vegetables contain vitamin B.

·         Vitamin C helps maintain gums and keeps soft tissue healthy. Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C.

·         Vitamin K keeps gums healthy and controls bleeding. Dark leafy greens are good sources of vitamin K.

·         Fluoride protects tooth enamel, which makes it harder to break down. This lowers the risk of cavities. Tap water and toothpaste often contain fluoride. If you drink only bottled water, ask your dentist if you need a fluoride supplement.

Watch your sweet tooth

Sugary and starchy foods release damaging acids that harm your teeth and lead to cavities and gum disease. Foods that are chewy, gooey, sticky or dissolve slowly do even more damage because they stay in your mouth longer. Caffeinated, carbonated and acidic drinks also hurt teeth. Always brush your teeth right after eating foods high in sugar.

These items should be only eaten in moderation:

·         Sugary foods like candy, cake and cookies. Try to avoid chewy and sticky items like hard candies, caramels, taffy, granola bars and dried fruit. Watch for hidden sources of sugar in things like condiments, peanut butter and pasta sauce.

·         Starchy, processed foods such as chips, pretzels and crackers.

·         Drinks high in sugar, including soda, sports drinks and juices.

Healthy snacking

If you can’t avoid a sugar craving, eat sweets right after a meal instead of as snacks. The damaging acids released by sugary foods stay in your mouth for 20 minutes before they break down. The more often you eat sugar-filled snacks, the more frequently acids develop that can harm your teeth.  Instead, choose nutritious snacks – such as fruits, vegetables and nuts – over sweet ones.

Sources:

http://www.journals.elsevierhealth.com/periodicals/yjada/article/S0002-8223%2803%2900282-7/abstract

http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/d/diet-and-dental-health.aspx

http://www.ada.org/sections/professionalResources/pdfs/Perio_heart.pdf

http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/diet-oral-health

http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/oralhealth/docs1/foods_for_healthy_teeth.pdf