Where dental health is concerned, it seems like we approach our choices with a pretty negative mindset.
You can’t drink soda pop!
You shouldn’t snack in between meals!
I see you eye-balling that ooey-gooey caramel cake… don’t even think about it!
Wouldn’t it be nice to think about all of the delicious foods that you can and should eat that can help improve your oral health and even build up your tooth enamel? Well, today is your lucky day because that is exactly what we are going to talk about.
While sugary foods and poor oral hygiene are essentially enamel-killers, there are a lot of delicious foods out there that can help you rebuild your bite. Eating a variety of healthy foods while brushing and flossing daily, using a fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash, and visiting your dentist regularly for check-ups make up the quintessential formula for a fantastic mouth. We will cover those last three recommendations another day because today we are going to focus on the tastiest part of our day: mealtime.
Healthy foods are packed with essential vitamins and nutrients that can help build up and maintain a well-functioning mouth. It reminds me of a part of a poem called “A Builder or a Wrecker” by Charles Franklin Benvegar:
As I watched them tear a building down
A gang of men in a busy town
With a ho-heave-ho, and a lusty yell
They swung a beam and the side wall fell
I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled,
And the men you’d hire if you wanted to build?”
He gave a laugh and said, “No, indeed,
Just common labor is all I need.”
“I can easily wreck in a day or two,
What builders have taken years to do.”
For our purposes, the common laborers are the added sugars, fats, and acids that, while making our food taste exceptional, are tearing down our teeth. It doesn’t happen in a day or two as it does in the poem, but little by little, our food choices and oral hygiene habits can break apart our enamel.
Luckily, certain vitamins and minerals are the builders in our proverbial dental lives, so by making small changes, we can rebuild some of the damage that has already been done to our teeth.
Phosphorus is a mineral that your body depends on to make new cells, keep bones strong and healthy, and create energy. The first two benefits apply directly to keeping your teeth and jaw healthy, so an appropriate level of phosphorus intake is essential for building healthy enamel. Foods that are high in phosphorus include:
- Chicken, pork, turkey, and seafood
- Whole grains
- Pumpkin and sunflower seeds
- Lentils and beans
If you haven’t heard anything else about maintaining healthy teeth, you’ve probably heard about calcium. Our bones and teeth are full of calcium, but interestingly, we can’t create our own, so we have to ingest it on a regular basis. If we don’t consume enough calcium, it can lead to brittle bones and teeth and organs that don’t work as well as they would otherwise. Luckily, there are a lot of tasty foods that can help build up those teeth and bones.
- Fortified juices
Known around the water cooler as potassium, vitamin K helps your bones and teeth stay dense and healthy. It’s a real team player with other minerals such as magnesium to doubly fortify your teeth and gums. Some foods high in vitamin K include:
- Leafy green vegetables like kale, Swiss chard, and broccoli
- Lima beans
Fluoride is a mineral that is most commonly found in city and well water. It can strengthen teeth, restore enamel, and make teeth more resistant to chipping and decay. You can add fluoride to your life by drinking water with fluoride, brushing with a fluoride toothpaste, or using a fluoride mouthwash.
Vitamin C does all sorts of crazy amazing things for your body, not the least of which is to strengthen your teeth. Additionally, vitamin C can help with improving your skin, guarding against the common cold and strokes, and battling stress. It helps your body absorb other essential nutrients, which then help rebuild and maintain your teeth. Some delicious foods that contain vitamin C include:
- Dark, leafy greens
- Sweet potatoes
- Brussels sprouts
- Bell peppers
All of the systems in our bodies are related to each other in some way or another, so eating other healthy foods can have an indirect influence on your teeth. While these don’t explicitly change the amount and quality of the enamel on your teeth, eating foods high in fiber, drinking plenty of water, and consuming probiotics found in foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, and asparagus will keep other areas of your body healthy, which will have a positive impact on your mouth. All in all, try to pay attention to adding a few more of the tooth builders and taking away a few more of the tooth wreckers for a healthier mouth today.