Nutrition

The Five Best Foods for Optimal Oral Health

You’ve heard dentists go on and on about how you have to floss and brush in order to control biofilm and plaque. But flossing and brushing are only part of the equation - it’s the foods you eat that determine your oral health.

by Dr. Burhenne

best foods for oral health

You’ve heard dentists go on and on about how you have to floss and brush in order to control biofilm and plaque. But flossing and brushing are only part of the equation – it’s the foods you eat that determine your oral health. Believe it or not, flossing and brushing are secondary. Here are some good ideas from Dr. Axe on what foods to eat for optimal oral health. —Dr. B

You’re likely aware of the foods and drinks to stay away from if you’re trying to keep your chompers looking good. Red wine and other acids can chip away at tooth enamel, sweets can lead to decay, and starchy foods (like soft breads and chips) can linger in your mouth longer than you’d like them to.

But did you know that there are foods that actually promote good oral health? Although you’re already flossing and brushing regularly, incorporating the right foods into your diet can strengthen teeth, heal cavities naturally, and keep your teeth in tip-top shape. So reduce your chances of cavities or tooth decay and skip the expensive whitening treatments. It’s time to eat your way to a healthy smile!


Apples

It turns out that eating an apple a day doesn’t just keep the doctor away – it can ward off the dentist, too. Because apples are high in water, eating them stimulates saliva production, which helps rid your mouth of bacteria and stray food particles that have overstayed their welcome. The fiber found in apples also stimulates the gums and acts as a mild astringent for your teeth, gently brightening them. Just be sure to enjoy the fruit unpeeled, as a lot of its oral benefits are found in the skin.

Dairy

Calcium isn’t only good for your bones — your teeth love it, too. A lack of calcium can lead to tooth decay, as this mineral helps your teeth maintain their structure. Getting enough calcium is a double whammy – not only will it strengthen teeth, but it also contributes to remineralization process that replaces minerals in the teeth.

Dairy products are chock-full of calcium and other minerals that promote oral wellness, but it’s important to eat the right dairy products. When choosing milk, always skip conventional products that are full of hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals. I recommend organic or, when possible, raw milk. It’s super healthy, safe, and also full of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that pasteurization kills.

Yogurt and kefir are also two calcium-rich dairy options that can contribute to overall oral health. And as an immune-boosting bonus, the probiotics found in them increase the good bacteria throughout your body—including the ones that fight the bad, cavity-causing bacteria.

Coconut

Practiced for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine, coconut oil pulling is a fantastic oral detoxification procedure that’s been gaining traction in the U.S. over the last few years. It works by removing toxins from your mouth and creating a clean, antiseptic oral environment that’s needed to prevent cavities and disease and it’s super easy! Simply swish a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth for 20 minutes and then spit it into the trash. (Avoid spitting the oil in the sink, as it could clog your drains. And you definitely don’t want to swallow it and re-absorb those toxins into your body.) The best time of day to oil pull is in the morning, and if you do it throughout your normal morning routine (i.e. while showering or getting dressed), it’ll be over in no time.

Because of its natural antifungal and antiviral properties, coconut is incredibly effective at remedying tooth decay, killing bad breath, whitening teeth, and healing bleeding gums. And while oil pulling is a great way to reap the maximum oral health benefits from coconut, incorporating it into your regular diet helps, too. I use coconut oil to cook all of my meals at home and I also love adding coconut milk to my smoothies.

Leafy Greens

Is there anything leafy greens can’t fix? Because they’re high in vitamins and minerals while being low in calories, leafy greens—like kale, spinach, Swiss chard and collard greens—are a fool-proof way to keep teeth healthy. The antioxidants and vitamins found in these powerful veggies combat cavities while also serving as a sneaky source of calcium to keep teeth strong.

If you struggle with getting enough leafy greens in your diet, try adding a handful to your morning smoothie, making baked green chips, sprinkling them on your pizza, or using them as a sandwich “wrap” or “taco shell.” Your smile will thank you.

Nuts

If you want a healthy mouth, it’s time to go nuts. Almonds, cashews, walnuts, take your pick—they’re all fantastic options. Nuts are loaded with a variety of vitamins and minerals that benefit your teeth, and the chewing that’s needed to break them down for digestion increases saliva production, keeping your mouth nice and clean.

The omega-3 fatty acids found in nuts strengthen teeth and support healthy gum tissue and nuts are also high in protein, making them an especially good option for vegetarians and vegans. One caveat: though nuts are generally healthy for you, they’re relatively high in fat. Portion out your serving sizes to ensure you’re not overdoing it.

read next: Foods to Eat—And Foods to Avoid—to Heal Cavities Naturally

Tired of cavities?

In 3 super easy steps, I'll show you how to hardly ever get another cavity without drastically changing your diet.

Dr. Mark Burhenne DDS

4 Comments

Leave a Comment

  1. Hello, Dr. Burhenne. I am excited to have found your blog. My twin grandsons who are five have had problems with tooth decay since they were two or three. My daughter breastfed them until they were two. They were always very poor sleepers, difficult to get to sleep at night and waking several times during the night. My daughter became so exhausted that she began giving them bottles in the night. She and her sister and I all have dairy sensitivity so, hoping to prevent that in the twins, she gave them rice milk in their bottles. We now believe that the carbohydrate content of the rice milk on their teeth is what started the problems. The decay is primarily in the upper front teeth in both boys. They have been taken to the dentist several times and one child has a cap on one of the middle front incisors and an incisor next to the middle ones has been pulled as it was causing pain. My daughter stopped taking them because the children’s dentist was pushing fluoride treatments which she does not want them to have. The other twin has decay between the two upper middle incisors and in at least one other place in front. These children have always been given healthy foods, such as spinach, other vegetables, yogurt and now kefir, raw fruit and very few sweet treats or desserts. Of course, their appetites are unpredictable, but they have also always been given a multi-vitamin as well as extra vitamin C, calcium and vitamin D.

    My question is: should the decayed teeth just be left until they lose them naturally or should they go to the dentist again for fillings or extractions? It is very difficult to keep them still to have dental work done as they are afraid, but if more is necessary I know my daughter will have it done. Or is it possible that the cavities can be healed enough to prevent pain until their baby teeth begin to come out?

    My daughter has been very distressed about the condition of their teeth and feels that she is to blame for not realizing that the rice milk was doing such harm. She and I have also been frustrated not to be able to find a wholistic dentist in our area who doesn’t push fluoride and Xrays. I am hoping that now that Ive found your web-site and blog you can advise us on how to keep their permanent teeth healthy when they come in.

    • Finally. An article that actually mentions the idea that maybe, just maybe there are unreasonable demands being made and the “skills shortage” is bogus. Now all that needs to happen is for the silly folks who want purple and striped squirrels to read this… and recognize themselves.

  2. Thanks, Dr. Axe, so good to know!

    Q: How does coconut oil whiten teeth?

    Q: Should we be brushing after eating apples? I assume so, if apples are acidic.

Leave a Reply

Send this to a friend

Facebook icon Twitter icon Instagram icon Pinterest icon Google+ icon YouTube icon LinkedIn icon Contact icon