We’ve all heard the adage “you are what you eat,” but some might be surprised to learn that what you eat can seriously affect the health of your teeth as well as your body.
And it isn’t all about avoiding sugary treats. Sure, that’s one thing you can do to keep your teeth healthy because sugar causes enamel-eating bacteria to grow in your mouth. But proper nutrition for your mouth goes far beyond saying no to too much sugar.
Did you know that the texture of foods can affect the development of your jaw? A study done by researchers at the University of Kent reported that a diet filled with soft foods that are easily chewed can cause the jaw to grow too short compared to a diet that includes a wide variety of crispy, woody, chewy foods. Think of the difference between our ancestors’ primitive diet of roots, plants and meat and our modern diet of overly processed foods like soft bread, ground hamburger, and ice cream.
Best Foods for Optimum Oral Health
The best choices for a mouth-friendly diet are typically the most natural: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein. These natural foods have loads of nutrients, as well as a variety of crunchy textures, that keep your teeth strong and healthy. In fact, some of these natural foods are secret superfoods for your teeth:
- Citrus fruits are packed with vitamin C, which helps defend against gum inflammation and promotes the production of collagen, a vital protein that keeps gums strong. Caveat: Citrus contains acid, which can erode enamel, so don’t keep them in your mouth for long periods of time. Drink water with them to quickly rinse away acid.
- Strawberries also contain vitamin C and a little-known thing called malic acid, nature’s own enamel whitener.
- Most berries, plus pomegranates, kiwis, mangoes, and teas, are high in polyphenols that remove bacteria from your teeth and reduce plaque.
- Foods like chicken, cheese, nuts, and milk have calcium and phosphorus that help remineralize teeth and keep enamel hard.
- Salmon and other fatty fish have high amounts of vitamin D, which helps your body absorb and use calcium.
- Crunchy, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables give you a triple header of benefits, including lots of nutrients, better jaw growth (see above), and a delicious way to break up plaque and “scrub” teeth clean between brushings.
- Water is the world’s best drink for rinsing away sugar and acids that cause bacteria and tooth decay.
Sugarless gum, while definitely not a natural food, is also a great way to keep teeth clean and healthy because chewing gum stimulates the production of saliva. Saliva keeps bacteria at bay and washes your mouth in strengthening calcium and phosphate.