The Best and Worst Foods for Your Teeth
In life, people only get one set of permanent teeth. Keeping as many of those teeth as possible is a goal that most people wish to achieve. While the importance of regular dentist visits and good oral hygiene are often stressed, recognizing the impact of food on one’s dental health is just as crucial. Some foods are actually good for your teeth and include properties that protect them from cavities and enamel erosion. Other foods accomplish the opposite and are actually bad for your teeth. While some of these foods are obvious and sweet, others are more unexpectedly damaging. Learning which foods to avoid, limit, or freely indulge in is important for the healthy teeth of children and adults.
Foods That Are Good for Your Teeth
- Gum: Chewing sugar-free gum helps keep teeth clean and strong by causing an increased production of saliva that washes away food debris and harmful acids while coating the teeth in phosphate and calcium. Sugar-free gum made using xylitol also reduces the amount of bacteria in the mouth.
- Tea: Drinking tea can help your teeth in several ways. It can help combat bad breath with the help of polyphenols. These polyphenols, which include catechins and theaflavins, are found in green tea and more abundantly in black tea. Green tea also helps toothpaste fight bacteria that cause tooth decay and problems such as strep throat.
- Cheese: Cheese offers protection against acid erosion that is caused by food and drink such as coffee or soda. It does this by causing increased salivation. When saliva production is increased due to the consumption of cheese, it raises the mouth’s pH levels for roughly 30 minutes. Cheese also contains casein phosphate, which also helps to strengthen the teeth.
- Apples: The natural crunch of apples and stimulated production of saliva help to strengthen gums and flush away tooth-decaying bacteria.
- Green Leafy Vegetables: Spinach and other leafy vegetables contain calcium and folic acid, which help strengthen tooth enamel and may potentially help fight gum disease.
- Strawberries: The malic acid in strawberries helps to whiten teeth when the fruit is consumed several times a week. Strawberries also contain vitamin C, which can help prevent tartar.
- Carrots: The crunchiness of raw carrots acts like a scrubbing toothbrush on the teeth that aids in the removal of plaque. Additionally, carrots also increase the production of saliva.
- Cranberries: Compounds found in cranberries can block plaque-forming bacteria from adhering to the teeth; however, products containing the fruit should be eaten in moderation, as sugar is often added.
- Nuts: Snacking on nuts helps teeth in several ways. The protein in nuts helps to strengthen teeth. In addition, the act of chewing the nuts helps to stimulate mouth-cleansing saliva.
- Fluoridated Drinks: The fluoride in water and in drinks made using fluoridated water helps to strengthen teeth and combat erosion. Water also helps wash away sugar, debris, and acids from the teeth.
Foods That Are Bad for Your Teeth
- Chips: Potato chips are a type of starchy food that breaks down into destructive acid in the mouth. During the chewing process, chips soften and get stuck between the teeth and adhere to the sides of them. As a result, acid-causing bacteria comes in direct contact with teeth for long periods of time.
- Peanut Butter: Peanut butter is a thick, sticky food that typically contains large amounts of sugar. This sugar comes into contact with and sticks to teeth, where it can begin to damage the teeth if not properly removed in a timely manner.
- Dried Fruit: Raisins and other dried fruit contain large amounts of natural sugar. As they are chewed, they easily get stuck between the teeth. As a result, the sugars stay in close contact and can cause decay.
- Sticky Candy: Taffy, caramels, and other types of extremely chewy and sticky candy can get stuck between the teeth. This causes some difficulty when it comes to thoroughly removing them, which means the acid their presence creates has more time to cause damage.
- Ice: The consumption of ice is harmless in terms of tooth decay, but it can crack or chip teeth if chewed.
- Sweet Drinks: Soda and other sugary drinks contribute to the decay of teeth due to the amount of sugar in them, which damages teeth by forming an acid when it combines with bacteria in the mouth. In addition, both regular and diet sodas already contain acid that eats away at tooth enamel.
- Hard Candy: There are two ways that hard candy can damage the teeth of people who eat it. Biting extremely hard candy can cause cracks or may even break a tooth. Sucking on this type of candy provides longer enjoyment of the flavors but also makes it last longer in the mouth. As a result, the sugar and resulting acid have more time to cause damage.
- Citrus: Lemons are highly acidic, and with regular consumption, they can erode the enamel on teeth. People who drink orange juice or lemonade regularly have a doubled risk, as these have added sugar in addition to the acid.
- Alcohol: Drinking alcohol is damaging to tooth enamel, and beverages such as red wine also cause dryness of the mouth. Mouth dryness is damaging to teeth, as it creates a hospitable environment for bacteria and plaque. Red and white wine are further damaging to the teeth because they contain acids that can be corrosive. In terms of appearance, certain types of alcohol can also cause staining.
- Pickles: Vinegar and sugar are important to the process of making pickles. Vinegar is a highly acidic food that is corrosive to tooth enamel, while sugar aids in the production of plaque-forming acid.
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