Quick hypothetical: imagine a controlled study with Patient A and Patient B. Patient A’s diet consists of just broccoli, salad and broiled fish, with water as the only beverage. Patient B eats only butterscotch candy, Sour Patch Kids, taffy and candy bars, with generous swigs of syrupy, sugary sodas.
After three days of the aforementioned dietary habits, it’s not hard to figure out which patient would be healthier, in a general sense. But let’s get more specific – what about their dental health profile? Assuming identical brushing and flossing habits, the contrast between Patient A and Patient B in terms of gum health, enamel erosion, cavity formation, bacteria buildup and other factors would be enormous.
This hypothetical is one way to illustrate how the foods and beverages you consume impact (for better or worse) your dental health.
Which naturally leads to the next question: which foods should you eat, and which ones should you avoid?
Cavities: A Silent Yet Serious Health Crisis
Cavities – those small pits on the teeth where tooth enamel has eroded away due to plaque and bacteria – are much more common than you probably think. The latest U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that cavities are the most widespread chronic disease among American youth (those younger than 20 years old).
Cavities are the cause of many oral health problems (including the common gum disease gingivitis), but they’re the effect of, among other things, the type of foods and beverages consumed.
Some foods promote tooth health, and others can harm your teeth, especially if you don’t brush and floss on a regular basis. Let’s take a look at some foods you should eat, and some foods you should avoid.
The “Good Food, Bad Food” Theory
Before we list each group of foods, always remember that moderation is key. We’re not telling you to eat leafy greens all day long for good teeth, or never consume carbonated soda to avoid cavities. This is simply a general guideline to re-balance your dietary choices that impact your mouth, teeth and gums. And here they are:
Foods to Eat for Healthy Teeth and Gums:
The beneficial bacteria in yogurt helps eliminate the harmful bacteria that can cause cavities and gingivitis. Just watch out for those yogurts loaded with sugar, though. Go with Greek yogurt or plain yogurt (flavored with your favorite fresh berries) instead.
It turns out that leafy greens and veggies really are healthy, especially for your teeth and gums! Packed with nutrients and antioxidants, a typical salad is good for teeth because of its ingredients, and also what it lacks: excess sugar, white flour and more.
You gotta love celery’s low calorie content for overall health, but this venerable stalk also helps “brush” away food particles, bacteria and early-forming plaque, too!
Many nuts are loaded with calcium and protein (essential for robust teeth), and they also provide a “celery effect” as well. Almonds, macadamias, walnuts and other nuts can act as a mini-toothbrush by absorbing and removing cavity-causing compounds.
Caution Ahead: Steer Clear of these Foods:
- Sour candy
It’s hard to find any redeeming qualities with sour candy, especially when talking about your teeth. Loaded with acids, sour candy works quickly to create plaque buildup and create cavities. And because it’s usually sticky, it tends to linger longer than other candy. Indulge every once in a while if you must, but we recommend you brush or rinse immediately afterward.
Kids candy isn’t the only indulgence to be wary of – watch out for adult beverages, too! Many types of alcoholic beverages have a high sugar content. And if that’s not bad enough, alcohol also tends to dry the mouth out by depleting saliva stores. A dry mouth is more susceptible to cavities, gingivitis and other serious oral health hazards.
- Potato chips
Potatoes by themselves aren’t bad. But after they’ve been sliced, fried and seasoned with numerous chemicals and artificial flavorings, the spud becomes a dental health dud. Starches found in potato chips eventually become sugar, with harmful consequences for your teeth. While we’re talking about starches, you can also help out your mouth by limiting consumption of white bread and flour.
If an evil anti-dentist madman (the next big movie villain, perhaps?) were to devise the perfect tooth-destroying substance, it would be hard to top carbonated soda. Soda fuels acid production in the mouth, which speeds plaque and cavity formation. And they’re packed with sugar, including high fructose corn syrup. And they contain artificial colors. And…you should limit your consumption, period.
Diet: Only One Component of a Healthy Mouth
The foods you eat help determine the health of your mouth, teeth and gums. But diet isn’t the only factor in the quest for optimal dental health. Regular visits to your dentist are also helpful. Your dentist will:
- Spot potential “problem spots” before they become worse.
- Diagnose and treat cavities.
- Analyze your current dental health profile.
- Offer advice and strategies for a more effective oral care plan.
- Conduct regular, routine teeth cleanings.
- And much more.
Dr. Dental has more than 40 offices through the U.S. Northeast region, and we can help get your dental health profile back on track. If you need a dependable dentist for routine care or more specialized services (including teeth whitening, root canals, emergency dentistry procedures and more), please visit your nearest Dr. Dental office today.