We’ve all heard the cliché, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Well, that may actually be true of the dentist. The foods we eat can help or hinder healthy teeth and a beautiful smile.
There are foods that are actually unhealthy for your teeth and there are some that stain your teeth. Foods and drinks that contain ascorbic acid can erode tooth enamel. This includes juices, sports drinks, and sour-type candy. Wine leaves your mouth dry and sticky, making staining more likely. Crackers tend to get stuck in the fissures and in between the teeth more than most foods. Hard candy such as suckers, contribute more to tooth decay than soft candy, such as chocolate, because they sit on the teeth while the sugars are dissolving. Biting hard candy can crack or break teeth, while taffy-type candy can pull out fillings. Marc Leichtung, DMD lists the “dirty dozen” foods that stain teeth. These include coffee, tea, wine, and sodas. Berries, juice, beets, soy sauce, and curry can leave unsightly color if you don’t rinse well after indulging. Acidic foods such as pickles, ketchup, and balsamic vinegar open pores in the enamel, making staining more likely. Stains from these foods are not permanent and can be remedied by rinsing with water after eating.
Often, when we think of foods in relation to our oral health, we think of those that are bad for our teeth. There are actually many more foods that are good for them. Pineapple and strawberries act as a natural stain remover. Apples and pears increase salivary production, which washes away stain over time, as well as contain vitamin C, which is good for gum health. Calcium, which can be found in dairy products, is a prime ingredient in prevention of tooth decay. Cheese also has protein and phosphorus, which safeguards against acidic food. Carrots are a good source of vitamin A, which promotes healthy tooth enamel. Foods high in fiber– such as leafy green vegetables and firm crunchy fruits– keep saliva flowing and create more minerals, which is the best defense against tooth decay. Whole grains are an excellent source of B vitamins and iron, which are good for gum health. Sugarless gums, especially those brands that contain xylitol, increase saliva, which helps with dry mouth and reduces the level of decay- causing bacteria in the mouth.
As you enjoy your meals, keep in mind that the foods you eat are nourishing the cells in your body, including the cells that make up your teeth and oral tissue. Food affects more than just the outside of your teeth. Drinking plenty of water, eating healthy, and practicing good oral hygiene can keep your smile healthy and beautiful.