According to the National Library of Medicine, tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease. It can also become a pervasive issue for older folks.
Tooth decay happens when decay-causing bacteria in your mouth encounter sugars and starches from foods and drinks and form acidic fluids. These fluids attack the surface of your teeth (the enamel), thereby causing them to lose minerals. If untreated, this loss in minerals can result in small holes appearing in your teeth (cavities). Tooth decay can lead to pain, infections, and tooth loss.
Avoid this scenario by choosing food options that are low in sugar content. But don’t look to artificially sweetened alternatives as these bring their own serious health issues. In general, steer clear of soft drinks, so-called fruit-flavored drinks, and sweets such as candy, cookies, and pastries.
Fortunately, there are foods that can support dental health.
The Good Stuff
Cranberries are best known for protecting your bladder against infections, but they also promote healthy teeth and gums. That’s because they’re packed with anthocyanin, a pigment that helps to prevent bacteria from clinging to surfaces.
Since cranberry juice is rich in anthocyanin, it can disassemble the formation of glucan (a carbohydrate derived from sugar), and prevent plaque from forming and hardening on your teeth.
While most people associate leafy greens with being part of a balanced diet and promoting immune robustness, they are also a tasty way to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
Leafy greens contain phytochemicals that are great for warding off bacteria and are rich in minerals. They also contain folic acid (vitamin B) and the powerful mineral known as calcium. Folic acid can help to fight off gingivitis and reduce both gum inflammation and bleeding. Meanwhile, calcium helps you to build up and maintain strong teeth and bones. If that weren’t enough, leafy greens can also help to lower your blood sugar levels.
Milk and cheese are both great sources of calcium and phosphate, which help to fortify your teeth’s surfaces (their enamel). Another healthy dairy product, yogurt, can contain probiotics (depending on the brand and quality of yogurt) that boost the amount of good bacteria within your mouth. A healthy bacteria presence can protect you from oral diseases such as gingivitis.
Not only do these dairy products provide calcium, which is great for strengthening your teeth and bones, they also contain a protein called casein. Casein can be a crucial component in neutralizing oral acids that are produced by bad bacteria within your mouth.
Water plays many fundamental roles in maintaining good health—including oral hygiene. Proper hydration is crucial to maintaining good dental health.
Saliva helps you to ward off gingivitis and prevent harmful bacteria from forming around your teeth and gums. But in order for your body to create enough saliva reserves, it has to be properly hydrated. Therefore, always make sure to drink water throughout the day, as it also helps your saliva clear your mouth of harmful elements such as food particles.
The Not So Good
Soft Drinks and Sweets
There’s nothing really “soft” about these drinks when it comes to your teeth and gums. The acids in soft drinks erode the tooth enamel and dry out your mouth, which means you don’t have enough saliva to clear out food particles from in between your teeth.
While candy is unhealthy generally, the chewier varieties are even worse for your oral health. Sour candies, in particular, are packed with acids that wreak havoc on your teeth. Also, since they’re so chewy, they have a tendency to get stuck in your teeth and fester tooth decay.
Contrary to any intent to wet your whistle, when you drink, you dry out your mouth. When you’re mouth is dry, you can’t prevent food (and bacteria) from sticking to your teeth. Saliva also helps to repair early signs of tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral infections.
Bread might seem like one of the innocent bystanders in your local grocery store, but when you chew bread, your saliva turns it into a mushy, gummy substance that sticks to the small spaces in between your teeth. This can cause cavities.
A healthier carbohydrate option would be whole-grain slices of bread (which also contain less sugar) and multi-grain crackers.
While the vitamin C that these fruits contain is great for your health, the accompanying acids aren’t. These acids can wear down your teeth’s enamel and cause tooth decay. So make sure to brush or rinse your mouth with water after eating or drinking citrus fruits or other acidic foods.