It is perhaps an understatement to say that keeping your teeth healthy is important and that it’s necessary to keep them clean. After all, it only takes one painful and unforgettable ordeal at the dentist for people to start paying attention to their dental wellbeing.
With that said, aside from brushing and flossing, there are numerous other ways one can maintain a healthy smile. Since we use our teeth to eat, it only makes sense that we consider making smarter dietary choices that not only maintain, but also boost the health of our teeth. Furthermore, it is equally important that we also know what to avoid!
Top 10 Best Foods for Your Teeth
1. Milk – It’s no secret that milk is just wonderful for your teeth. We have long credited milk with healthy, strong bones and teeth due to its high calcium content. However, it appears that it is so much more than that. A 2006 review published in the Journal of the California Dental association listed a more extensive list of benefits that milk provides in maintaining oral health.
Not only does it help re-mineralize the teeth after acidic substances in food have worn the tooth’s enamel, it inhibits the colonisation of bacteria and also inhibits the formation of biofilm (which is the early formation of plaque). All these factors combined prevent tooth decay and help promote good oral health.
2. Cheese – Being a dairy product, cheese is high in calcium. More importantly, it regulates the pH levels in the mouth. Not only that, it promotes saliva production and eliminates the bacteria that cause tooth decay.
3. Sugar free gum – Most varieties of sugar-free gum contain xylitol. Xylitol is a sweetener that naturally occurs in plants, however, unlike our favourite sweetener, sugar, it actually kills the bacteria that cause tooth decay. Chewing gum also promotes saliva production which flushes and cleanses the mouth.
4. Nuts – Nuts are rich in vitamins and minerals which help protect teeth from decay. Our favourite mineral, calcium is found in nuts and it’s interesting to note that eating nuts stimulates the production of saliva, which cleans the mouth.
5. Leafy vegetables – Leafy vegetables are rich in fibre which when chewed, acts like a natural toothbrush and helps dislodge food particles while also cleaning the surface of the teeth. They can also form a protective acid resistant layer on your teeth which helps protect them from decay. Furthermore, vegetables like kale and spinach are high in Vitamin A which is used to form tooth enamel.
6. Water – The world’s most popular drink is not only necessary for keeping us alive, it’s great for our teeth too! Water flushes and cleans the mouth while also stimulating the production of saliva which also does the same thing. Tap water contains fluoride which arrests the process of tooth decay by strengthening the teeth.
7. Celery – Fibrous and delicious, celery is great for your teeth. It has a fibrous composition which naturally brushes the teeth as it is chewed. It also stimulates the production of saliva which cleans the mouth.
8. Onions – While they may be renowned for giving you bad breath, it may come as a bit of a surprise that onions are great for your dental health. They possess anti-bacterial compounds which annihilate the bacteria that cause tooth decay. So maybe next time someone complains about you having ‘onion breath’, be sure to educate them on the oral health benefits those smelly onions provide!
9. Sesame seeds – Usually found on buns and other high starch foods, (which we earlier discovered were bad for your teeth) it’s rather surprising to learn that sesame seeds are the exact opposite. They are great for your teeth! Sesame seeds contain calcium and are also known to dissolve plaque and help build tooth enamel.
10. Fish – Fish like salmon is rich in calcium and vitamin D. It also contains a mineral known as phosphorus which is crucial in the building of tooth enamel.
Top 10 worst foods for your teeth
1. Coffee – The world’s favourite pick-me-up is simply awful for the health and appearance of your teeth. It is especially worse if it’s dark. Dark coffee stains the teeth, causing significant yellowing of the tooth’s enamel and with repeated consumption along with inconsistent brushing, that yellowing will require polishing by a dental professional to restore your teeth’s natural whiteness.
Further, caffeine (which is found in coffee) can interfere with saliva production, drying out the mouth. Saliva is responsible for keeping the mouth clean and flushing out substances like sugar which contribute to tooth decay. Naturally, with less saliva, there is a greater chance of tooth decay.
2. Dried fruit – Did you know that dried fruits like raisins and prunes are bad for your teeth? Not only are they high in sugar, which bacteria in the mouth live on, they can also get stuck in between teeth. Once they are here, the damage begins.
If the teeth aren’t brushed properly after eating dried fruit, the sugar provides energy to bacteria found in the mouth. The bacteria produce acids which cause tooth decay.
3. Sweets – It’s pretty much a given that sweets aren’t good for your teeth. The culprit is sugar once again. The most critical factor is the consistency of the sweets you’re eating. Chewy and sticky sweets like toffees and jelly babies are less likely to be washed away by saliva and will thus remain on the tooth’s surface for longer which eventually leads decay. Hard sweets like jaw breakers on the other hand can cause breakages if one attempts to chew right through them.
4. Soft drinks – Soft drinks, especially the carbonated kind such as coke and soda are also not good for your teeth. Coke for example, is highly acidic and erodes the enamel of the tooth. Not only that, it contains large amounts of sugar which, as mentioned before, feed bacteria that cause tooth decay. Here is a story of a man who drank a lot of coke and paid the price by losing ALL his teeth.
5. Wine – It’s almost common knowledge that red wine can stain the teeth. However, its white wine you need to consume with care. White wine can erode the enamel of the tooth and the effect is worsened by brushing.
6. Saltine Crackers – As unbelievable as it may seem, those bland saltine crackers are really not good for your teeth. In fact, they are believed to be the worst food possible for the health of your teeth. The cause is their high content of processed starch. Starch is a sugar and it has a tendency to get sticky once it is in your mouth. It then gets caught in-between teeth and bacteria use it as fuel and produce the acids which cause tooth decay.
7. Citrus fruits – Fruits like oranges, clementines, lemons, grapefruits and tangerines are really bad for your teeth. The same can be said for their respective juices too as pretty much all citrus fruits are highly acidic.
They contain citric acid which softens the enamel of the tooth and makes the tooth more prone to mechanical erosion. It is therefore not advisable to brush the teeth immediately after drinking orange juice or after eating a citrus fruit.
8. Vinegar – Vinegar contains acetic acid which over time, wears away at the enamel of the teeth. Its acidic properties are actually used to whiten teeth as the acid can eat away at stains and reveal the tooth’s natural whiteness. That being said, it’s very much a double edged sword. While it can give you a brighter, whiter smile, it can also damage your teeth and cause tooth decay.
9. French fries – The world’s most popular fast food is quite bad for your teeth. French fries are made from potatoes which contain high levels of starch. As mentioned before, starch is actually a sugar and so bacteria in the mouth can use it as food.
Furthermore, do you ever notice how French fries can get stuck in between your teeth? That leaves your teeth exposed to bacteria for longer, further increasing the chances of tooth decay!
10. Sports & energy drinks – Among those all-important electrolytes that are oh so essential for rehydration lurk substances which are harmful to your teeth. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Paediatric Dentistry revealed that sports and energy drinks like Red Bull and Gatorade are especially acidic and contain surprisingly high amounts of sugar.
Not only that, they contain significant amounts of caffeine which interferes with saliva production in the mouth. This can potentially contribute to tooth decay. In fact, some of these sports drinks pose a greater danger to your teeth than coke.
A lot of the dental problems we experience are caused by the foods we choose to eat and most crucially, the foods we choose not to eat. By making a few informed dietary alterations, we can drastically improve our oral health and have strong, healthy teeth and vibrant smiles that will most likely stay with us for many years to come.