When it comes to keeping your and your family’s mouths healthy through preventive dentistry, you probably know it’s important to brush and floss consistently and to visit the dentist every six months for a cleaning and examination.
But have you considered the importance of diet to your dental health? It’s no secret that what you eat affects your body overall. And you probably know that certain foods are bad for your teeth. So it makes sense that other foods are beneficial to your oral health.
Read on to learn about a few superfoods that will help keep your mouth in tip-top shape. Not surprisingly, these tend to be good for your general health too.
At Silver Leaf Dentistry, we’d be delighted to discuss the importance of diet to your teeth and gums. For an appointment, call our Longmont, CO office at 720-504-2539.
Incorporate Leafy Green Vegetables
Leafy green vegetables — kale, Swiss chard, spinach, collards, and any number of other varieties — are packed with nutrients, low in calories, delicious, and versatile. They are true superfoods when it comes to your overall health, and dental health specifically.
Leafy greens are an excellent way to add calcium — the mineral so essential to strong teeth — to your diet (so if you are vegan and don’t eat dairy, definitely load up on your greens).
Plus, leafy green vegetables contain folic acid. Research has shown this nutrient to be beneficial to gum health, reducing bleeding and inflammation and protecting the tissue from periodontal disease.
Are your kids veggie-phobic? You can try incorporating greens into your family’s diet in unexpected ways, like in smoothies. Otherwise, set a good example by preparing them often and eating them enthusiastically yourself.
Snack on Raw Vegetables and Fruits
Vegetables and fruits that are crunchy and high in fiber make excellent, mouth-healthy snacks. Think apples, carrots, and celery. Chew on any of these, and your mouth will produce lots of cleansing saliva. Their fibrous texture stimulates and massages the gums. Chowing down on on apple or raw veggies at the end of a meal helps keep your mouth fresh and clean sans brushing.
Plus, they boast a wide variety of health-boosting vitamins and minerals. You may be wondering about an apple’s sugar content — doesn’t that make it a bad choice for dental health? Nope, an apple’s beneficial effects are far stronger than potential harm from the little bit of sugar it contains.
Chow Down on Dairy
A diet with plenty of dairy products makes for robust, healthy, teeth. Cheese, milk, and yogurt are loaded with calcium. This mineral is stored in your bones and teeth, and is essential to keeping them strong. Dairy products also provide your body with phosphorus. Phosphorus works with calcium to maintain tooth structure and repair damage to the enamel.
Plus, dairy products contain beneficial proteins called caseins, which group together to create a coating over the teeth. This casein barrier locks out bacteria and prevents bacteria-produced acids from reaching the enamel.
Cheese and yogurt deserve special shout-outs for their beneficial effects on the teeth. Research has shown that cheese raises the pH level in the mouth, possibly because the act of eating it stimulates saliva production. A higher pH creates a non-hospitable environment for bacteria, and reduces the likelihood of tooth decay and disease. Yogurt contains probiotics, or beneficial bacteria. These may reduce the number of harmful bacteria in your mouth by, in essence, pushing them out.
While dairy products are wonderful for your oral health, watch out for added sugar, which can cancel out any benefit. Pass up sugar-sweetened yogurt for plain, and encourage your kids to drink white milk only.
Eat More Nuts
Low in sugar — check. Rich in nutrients — check. Next time you’re tempted to open a bag of chips or pretzels for a midday snack, reach for nuts instead. Nuts provide your body and teeth with protein, and are low in carbohydrates. Carbs are what cause bacteria and damaging acids to proliferate in your mouth. Eating crunchy nuts increases saliva production, which is important for keeping your mouth clean.
Dump — or at least reduce — the juice, soda, and sports drinks. If you are thirsty, drink water. Every time you drink water, you help stay hydrated and rinse nasty bacteria and food particles from your mouth.
Whenever possible, drink tap. Invest in a reusable water bottle, so you can carry it with you. Tap is better for the environment (no disposable plastic bottles), plus most U.S. water supplies are supplemented with fluoride, which is vital for maintaining tooth enamel.