One of the first things you probably learned about oral health is that sugary foods and sweet drinks are bad for your teeth. Somewhere along the way, you may have also discovered that hard foods and acidic beverages can damage your enamel or dark drinks and pigmented foods can stain your smile.
But did you know the list of foods that are good for your teeth is far longer than the list of foods you might want to avoid or limit? Just as the wrong dietary choices can diminish your smile and erode your oral health, the right choices can support and protect your oral health.
Here at Healthy Smile Dental in Woodridge, Illinois, Dr. Hannah Baek and our team know there’s more to a healthy smile than meticulous oral hygiene habits and regular dental visits. Strong, white teeth and a healthy mouth start with optimal nutrition.
Read on as Dr. Baek explores the foods and nutrients that support healthy teeth and gums.
Eating for optimal oral health
Eating for optimal oral health is like eating for optimal overall health. You want a balanced diet with a variety of wholesome, nutrient-rich foods that provides ample dietary fiber and limits added sugars, including processed, high-calorie foods that provide little nutrition.
Think of filling about half of your “daily plate” with fresh, fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens and filling the other half with a mix of lean proteins (poultry, eggs, beans, tofu), low-fat dairy products (unsweetened yogurt), healthy fats (nuts, avocados, olive oil), and whole-grain options (oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa).
Simply, an overall eating pattern that’s unprocessed, sustaining, and nutritious supports whole-body health right down to your teeth and gums.
Key nutrients for healthy teeth and gums
The tissues that make up your teeth and gums require specific nutrients to stay healthy. If you want to give your smile a boost from the inside out, make sure you’re getting enough:
Calcium and vitamin D
These two nutrients work together to keep your teeth (and bones) strong and healthy. To get them both together, go for low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt fortified with vitamin D; fortified soymilk is a good non-dairy option.
You can also choose calcium-rich foods like tofu (made with calcium sulfate), canned salmon, almonds, and certain dark leafy greens, and get your vitamin D through a supplement or daily sun exposure.
This essential mineral helps your body absorb and use calcium. It also strengthens your teeth by protecting and rebuilding their enamel surface. Phosphorus is in fish, eggs, lean red meat, beans, and other protein-rich foods.
This powerful antioxidant nutrient strengthens blood vessels and connective tissue to keep your gums healthy. Vitamin C occurs in several fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, potatoes, and dark leafy greens.
Another essential antioxidant nutrient, vitamin A is known for its important role in eye and skin health. It’s just as good for your oral health, helping your mouth maintain dental tissues and produce saliva. You can get vitamin A from many foods, including orange-colored produce like carrots, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, and mangos.
Foods that promote a beautiful smile
Just as boosting certain nutrients in your diet can support your oral health from the inside out, eating certain foods can promote a healthier, more beautiful smile from the outside in. From cleaning your teeth and freshening your breath to inhibiting bacterial growth and neutralizing acids, the following foods can make your mouth happy:
Crisp fruits and raw veggies
Fresh apples, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, and celery are oral health superstars — chewing them fosters healthy saliva production and helps scrape leftover food particles and bacteria from your teeth.
Leafy green vegetables
Low in calories and nutrient-dense, leafy green vegetables also promote optimal saliva levels and clean your teeth as you chew. They have additional properties that support healthy enamel, too.
Cheese and probiotic yogurt
Cheese is a major saliva maker. After regular brushing and flossing, saliva is your next best defense against cavities and gum disease. Eating cheese after a starch-heavy meal helps generate saliva to help neutralize the bacterial acids and enzymes attacking your teeth. Yogurt that contains probiotics has also demonstrated reduced enamel demineralization.
Water and unsweetened tea
Making water your primary source of hydration promotes optimal saliva levels and leaves less room for enamel-damaging sugary beverages and acidic drinks. Unsweetened green and black teas are healthy for your teeth, too, as they contain powerful polyphenols that inhibit the growth of bacteria.
If you have questions about nutrition and oral health, we have answers. Call 630-910-1900 today, or use our easy online booking feature to schedule a visit with Dr. Baek any time.