When discussing oral health, the focus is usually on brushing and flossing and professional dental cleanings. And, yes, those things are very important. But, your dentist will agree that what you eat affects your entire body and all its systems, including your dental health.
Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, happens as a result of poor oral hygiene. Plaque and tartar build up on the teeth and the gums begin to detach from the surface of the teeth. Bacteria then thrive and infect the gum tissues around the teeth and from there, can enter the rest of the body. The teeth and the jawbones can be damaged, plus some serious health problems can result, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, respiratory infections, rheumatoid arthritis, and reproductive problems.
The keys to the prevention of gum disease are a solid daily oral health routine and a diet of teeth-friendly foods.
In this article, we will explore the best foods for healthy teeth. These are going to be items that provide a balanced diet full of vitamins and nutrients. Thus, helping to reduce inflammation while also supporting the body’s immune system. We will also touch on the foods to avoid to protect the gums.
The Top 10 Best Foods for Healthy Teeth and Gums
Eating properly protects all the systems in your body, including your dental health. As important as brushing and flossing your teeth are every day, those two actions alone aren’t enough to ensure healthy teeth and gums. It also takes eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, protein foods, calcium-rich foods, and whole grains for a healthy smile as well as a healthy body.
Prevention is the goal, but even if you have been diagnosed with periodontal disease, choosing foods from the following list will help your gum health. Here are the best drinks and foods for your teeth and gums:
#1 – Water
Our bodies consist of 60% water, so staying hydrated is critical to our health. Water distributes nutrients throughout the body, helps the skin, and keeps the muscles moving. It also helps keep our teeth healthy, especially if the water is fluoridated. Fluoride is a natural mineral that acts as a cavity fighter. Plus, the water helps wash away bits of food left in our mouths and keeps saliva levels high.
Water is the healthiest thing we can drink.
#2 – Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Look for fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables in each season of the year. They are full of vitamins and nutrients that strengthen the immune system, promote healing, and provide anti-inflammatory properties.
Apples, carrots, and celery are crunchy veggies that help clean plaque from teeth and freshen breath. Many fruits and vegetables, such as apples, pears, strawberries, pineapples, tomatoes, broccoli, kiwi, bell peppers, and cucumbers contain antioxidants like vitamin C which protect gums and other tissues from cell damage and bacterial infection.
Antioxidants increase the production of blood cells that destroy foreign micro-organisms which then give improved resistance against infections throughout the body, including tooth decay.
Chewing the fibrous texture of many fresh fruits and vegetables stimulates your gums, increasing saliva flow and reducing cavity-causing bacteria.
Leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, and kale are also rich in calcium, folic acid, and many important vitamins and minerals that are good for your teeth and gums. Greens that are crunchy help clean your teeth so use them liberally in salads and sandwiches.
Fresh broccoli offers vitamins C and K, which are important for bone health and proper blood clotting and it is a natural teeth cleaner!
As you see from this category, vegetables are one of the best foods for your gums and your teeth!
#3 – Fatty Fish
Fatty acids called omega-3s are powerful anti-inflammatories that also support brain health and fight gum disease. Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel are an easy way to add omega-3s to our diet.
These types of fish also contain excellent levels of vitamin D, which helps the human body absorb calcium. Both vitamin D and calcium aid in keeping your teeth and gums healthy. Eating fish in this category accomplishes both!
#4 – Lean Meats
The human body needs protein. Proteins consist of amino acids that your body uses to build and repair muscles and bones and to make hormones and enzymes. They are also used as an energy source.
Chicken, beef, and fish are excellent sources of protein and they are rich in the mineral phosphorus, which aids in bone production. If your diet doesn’t contain enough phosphorus, your teeth are more prone to chipping and breaking.
Chewing meat also produces saliva which decreases acidity in your mouth and washes away particles of food that lead to decay. Red meat and even organ meats are especially beneficial for this purpose.
#5 – Milk and Cheese
Dairy supports healthy teeth for several reasons. Cheese contains the protein called casein, which strengthens tooth enamel. It is high in calcium, but low in sugar. Cheese is also high in phosphate, which preserves tooth enamel, by balancing pH levels in the mouth. And it increases saliva production which washes bacteria in the mouth away.
Milk has enzymes that coat the teeth and reduce bacteria in the mouth. It has lots of calcium and lowers acid levels in the mouth. All of these actions fight tooth decay.
#6 – Nuts and Seeds
Nuts contain a lot of calcium and phosphorus, which, as we learned above, are both important elements for our teeth and gums. Some nuts, like cashews and walnuts, stimulate saliva and contain fiber, iron, thiamine, niacin, vitamin E, vitamin B6, folic acid, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Peanuts contain calcium and vitamin D and Brazil nuts, almonds, and cashews fight bacteria in the mouth.
Flax seeds and sesame seeds both contain high levels of calcium, which strengthens your tooth enamel. Chewing sesame and flax seeds will help remove plaque, too.
Nuts and seeds are also important sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Chew carefully, though! Many nuts and seeds have pointy and rough edges that may irritate the gum tissues.
#7 – Probiotics-Rich Foods
Probiotics are healthy bacteria found in foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut. These bacteria work to control the harmful bacteria that live in the mouth. Probiotics also improve digestion, boost immunity, reduce depression, and promote heart health.
Yogurt, in particular, also has a great deal of calcium in it. Not only does yogurt help prevent tooth decay but also works to prevent gum disease and bad breath. Look for yogurt with active or live cultures to get the benefit of probiotics.
#8 – Green Tea
Green tea contains catechin, an antioxidant that protects against inflammation and bacteria. And its polyphenols–natural compounds that reduce inflammation, protect against oxidative stress, and prevent cell damage–work to suppress destructive bacteria that cause plaque on the teeth. It also reduces acidity in saliva, so green tea promotes dental health in several ways.
#9 – Whole Grains
Foods with whole grains, like some bread, pasta, brown rice, and oatmeal, are healthier choices than simple carbohydrates that contribute to cavities. Whole grains are complex carbohydrates that give bacteria less digestible food for them to grow. They also offer many other nutrients to help your teeth and gums stay healthy. Learn to read food labels on these foods; the first ingredient must indicate whole wheat for it to be one of these complex carbohydrates.
#10 – Sweet Potatoes, Garlic, Onions, and Shiitake Mushrooms
Sweet potatoes contain vitamin A, which helps to maintain healthy mucous membranes and soft tissue of the gums. Vitamin A is also important in maintaining the protein keratin which helps in the formation of tooth enamel.
Garlic and onions contain allicin which has healthy antimicrobial characteristics. These fight tooth decay as well as gum disease.
Shiitake mushrooms also offer antimicrobial properties against tooth decay. Researchers found that these mushrooms contain a polysaccharide called lentinan, which prevents the growth of bacteria in the mouth.
As you can see, you have a lot to choose from when it comes to teeth-friendly foods! Now, what about foods to avoid?
Foods to Avoid for Healthy Teeth and Gums
Here is a list of foods to avoid:
- Sugary drinks
- Chewy or hard candies
- Vinegar-rich foods like pickles
- Refined carbohydrates like crackers, potato chips, white bread, pastries and desserts, white rice, cookies, cereal, sugar, agave syrup, high fructose corn syrup, pasta, and artificial sweeteners
- Fruits like lemons, grapefruits, oranges, limes, pineapples, and grapes with high acidic content
- Dried fruits like raisins, prunes, dates, figs, cherries, apricots, pineapple
- Undiluted apple cider vinegar
There is a Close Relationship Between Food and the Chances of Tooth Decay and Gum Disease
Eating a healthy, nutritious diet is directly related to the health of your teeth and gums. The foods on the top 10 list in this article will help you avoid tooth decay and gum disease. If you have already been diagnosed with gum disease, the foods above can significantly help stop any further damage.
Any change in how and what you eat takes time, so be kind to yourself as you work to protect your body, including your teeth, from damage. Keep in mind that you are making a change that will benefit you for the rest of your life!
Here at Wilmington Dental Associates, we are ready to assist you with your dental care in any way we can. Your dental health and comfort are our top priorities, so call or contact us today with any questions you may have or to set an appointment!