With strong teeth and fresh breath
Your smile is often the first thing people notice
Your smile is often the first thing people notice. To keep your smile bright, choose tooth-friendly food and drink and limit those that cause dental problems. Guess what? The same foods that are good for your mouth are good for your body. That’s another reason to smile.
Bite into these
For strong, healthy teeth and gums choose food and drink that are low in sugar, stimulate saliva, and don’t stick to teeth. Depriving mouth bacteria of the food they need to multiply means less bacteria and acid in your mouth and less risk of tooth enamel erosion, decay and serious gum diseases.
Water gives bacteria less to feed on because it washes acid-producing foods from your teeth and mouth. However, not all liquids are created equal—soft drinks, juice, tea, coffee, wine and other alcoholic beverages can all damage tooth enamel.
Go for dairy
Like other mouth-healthy foods, dairy products such as cheese and milk stimulate saliva production which rinses away acid. But dairy products do more. Their protein, calcium, and phosphorous act as buffers against acid found in the mouth, adding an extra layer of protection to tooth enamel. Dairy products also strengthen protective minerals in teeth surfaces.
Opt for omega-3 fatty acids
Your teeth are only as good as your gums. When gums become inflamed from gingivitis or periodontal disease, they can no longer anchor teeth to the bone, resulting in tooth loss. By reducing inflammation and infection, you can reduce gum disease.
One way to do this is by eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids—such as fish and fish oil, flaxseeds, and walnuts—which are potent anti-inflammatory nutrients.
Check out cocoa
Antioxidants found in cocoa can also decrease inflammation, but don’t grab the first chocolate bar you see. Most commercial chocolate bars and candy are high in sugar and saturated vegetable fat and low in cocoa. Look for natural or organic brands, particularly dark chocolate, with more cocoa solids and less sugar.
Consider more calcium
Calcium-rich foods (dairy, fish, beans and nuts, kale and broccoli) and supplements that help bones stay strong and healthy do the same for teeth. They also protect against gum disease. Maintaining healthy gums and strong jawbones means you’re more likely to keep your own teeth and have reason to smile.
Beware of these
The three sins when it comes to teeth and gums are sweet, starchy, and sticky. This combination is exactly what oral bacteria love. As bacteria multiply, they cause excess plaque and acidity which leads to erosion of tooth enamel, cavities, gingivitis, periodontal disease, weakened bone structure, and tooth loss.
Shelve sugary drinks
The sugar in soft drinks is easily broken down into acids. If you sip your drinks, like most people, your teeth are bathed in sugar and acid for longer periods of time. According to the American Dental Association, adding carbonation to the mix raises the acid level, making these drinks even more destructive. Substituting sugar-free versions won’t help as they contain more phosphates, increasing their acidity.
Forget sports drinks. Their “energy” comes from sugar. Fruit drinks sound healthier but may only contain 10 percent juice and are high in sugar.
Cut the sweets
Most lollies are basically sugar with flavouring. Like soft drinks, their sugars are quickly broken down by bacteria into acid. Sticky or gummy sweets and treats are worse than hard candies.
These soft lollies adhere to the surface of the tooth so tightly that saliva can’t wash away food particles. The longer the sweet treats stick to your teeth, the more likely you’ll be seeing a dentist in the near future.
Even dried fruits such as raisins can be a dental problem. The drying process concentrates the sugars and makes the fruit stickier.
Slow down on starch
Bacteria love simple, starchy foods, especially cooked, refined ones such as breads, pasta, crackers, rice, potato and popcorn. The refining and cooking processes make it easier for bacteria to break down the starch, raising the level of enamel-eroding acidity.
When combined with sugar, as in sweet breakfast cereals, pastries, cakes, muffins and cookies, the damage doubles. These foods get stuck in the plaque between teeth and become a banquet for bacteria.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Sweetened coffee and tea are like grown-up soft drinks, with much the same effects. In addition, caffeine dries out the mouth, leaving less saliva to wash away acid. The tannins in tea and red wine stain teeth over time, giving them a dull, grey look.
Switching from wine to other kinds of alcohol won’t help. It’s the alcohol itself that removes enamel from the tooth surface, causing discoloration and cavities.
Food and drink can either be your mouth’s friend or its enemy. Choose wisely and you’ll have something to smile about for years to come.
No brush? No floss? No worries
For times when you don’t have a toothbrush or dental floss, there are simple ways to wash away acids and dislodge food particles from your teeth after a meal or snack. Here are several suggestions.
Don’t reach for a commercial mouthwash with its long list of chemicals. Try natural ways to fight bad breath.
For persistent bad breath, see a health care practitioner to rule out underlying illness or dental problems.