One of the stereotypes of dentists is that we don’t want you to eat sugar or candy. So if you avoid candy and sugary things, you’re in the clear…right?
Not quite. It’s great to avoid candy but there are several foods you can eat to help build healthier teeth and gums, prevent tooth decay and gum disease, as well as keep your mouth and smile looking young and beautiful for your whole life.
Not only that, you might be pleasantly surprised to find that one of the best foods for your teeth that I’m about to suggest below actually qualifies as “candy.”
Check out the five superfoods for your teeth below. When you’re done, check out my list of top 5 worst foods for your teeth, which also might surprise you since candy didn’t make the list.
Dark chocolate (we’re talking about the 70% cacao stuff, not sugar-laden milk chocolate) is a superfood for the teeth due to a compound called CBH which was proven in animal tests to help harden tooth enamel, making your teeth less susceptible to tooth decay. In other words, dark chocolate may actually help prevent cavities!
This is why my patients get a small square of dark chocolate in their goodie with floss and toothpaste after coming into the office for an appointment. Don’t be surprised if you begin to see CBH from chocolate added to your toothpaste.
Click here to read more about the mechanisms of the benefits of chocolate for the mouth, click here.
What makes cheese a superfood for the teeth is its ability to combat acid erosion of the teeth. Every time you eat a meal with breads, sweets, citrus, or soda, your teeth are exposed to tons of tooth decay causing acid.
Eating cheese after a meal can counteract the acid left behind by a meal, making it a great choice for dessert! Stick to sheep and goat’s cheeses, which are better for you and easier on the digestive system than cheese made of cow’s milk.
The only bad part about cheese is that many of us eat cheese on a saltine cracker, which is the #1 most cavity causing food (yes, you read right! It’s worse than candy when it comes to cavities). Have your cheese on a flourless cracker (Mary’s Gone Crackers are my favorite) and eat cheese guilt free.
3. Wild Salmon
Hopefully you’re getting enough calcium in your diet since calcium protects your teeth and gums from disease. But did you know that your body can’t absorb all that calcium if you don’t have enough vitamin D in your diet?
Fatty fish is a fantastic source of vitamin D, which allows your teeth and gums to get the full disease-fighting benefits of calcium from the foods you eat. Taking a supplement of vitamin D (5000 iu per day) is another great way of getting the proper vitamin D intake into your diet.
This one may be a bit of a surprise, since oranges are a citrus and I’ve already warned you about the effects of acid on the teeth. But the vitamin C in citrus strengthens blood vessels and connective tissue and slows down the progression of gum disease by reducing inflammation.
Just make sure not to brush right after you eat citrus fruits. Have a glass of sparkling water (high pH water with minerals) and then brush later. Always wait at least a half hour after consuming acidic food or drink before brushing.
Saliva is made up of 99.5% water. Dehydration can thicken your saliva, which wreaks havoc in the mouth. Why?
Optimum levels of water in your saliva are essential to proper breakdown of food, neutralizing bacterial acid (and thus, bad breath), and preventing tooth decay. If you’ve ever suffered from dry mouth, you know that saliva helps ward off bad breath. This is because saliva neutralizes bacterial acid in the mouth.
Your saliva is important, so keep it well hydrated with half your body weight in ounces of water throughout the day. If you’re 150 pounds, that’s roughly 75 ounces of water every day that you need to stay hydrated.
Additionally, while water still isn’t as good as a toothbrush and floss, it can still aid in reducing plaque by rinsing away food debris. Rinsing with water after drinking coffee or having other staining foods can help reduce staining to the teeth.
6. Fruits and Vegetables
Don’t have a toothbrush handy? High-fiber fruits and vegetables are your next best option. Their high fiber content physically scrubs the teeth similar to the way your toothbrush might and stimulates saliva production because of the extra chewing they require.
The scrubbing action is good because it reduces the amount of plaque buildup until you can get to your toothbrush and floss. If you’ve ever woken up with morning breath, you’ll know intuitively that saliva production is what wards off bad breath. Saliva neutralizes tooth enamel damaging acids.
The high water content in crunchy, juicy fruits and vegetables helps to offset their sugar content. Eating an apple a day will make your dentist and hygienist very happy.
Xylitol has been proven to ward off tooth decay due to compounds in it which kill tooth decay causing bacteria.
What is xylitol? It’s a sweetener you’ll find in many sugarless gums. Chewing gum increases saliva production, which wards off tooth decay and bad breath – meaning you get double the benefits!
Most importantly, xylitol will properly populate your mouth with the correct ratio of bad to good bacteria, aiding in digestion and overall oral health.
8. Green and Black Tea
Polyphenols, which are found in green and black tea, interact with the bacteria that cause plaque by killing or suppressing them. Bacteria feed on the sugars in your mouth and, once they’ve had their feast, they excrete tooth enamel destroying acids. This makes tea a great choice for during or after a meal, since it suppresses the presence of these acid producing bacteria in the mouth.
Polyphenols in tea also have cavity-fighting properties. You may have heard that tea contains fluoride, which is true, but not enough to make a difference for your teeth or health.