Maintaining healthy teeth and gums for a lifetime begins with regular brushing, flossing and visits to the dentist. Our food choices also play a vital role in keeping teeth in tip top shape giving us that effervescent smile. Here are some foods that will do just the trick to keep you grinning from ear to ear.
Cheese and Milk
There is a reason why we say “cheese” when having a picture taken. We know dairy foods are good for our bones but they also protect our teeth against cavities. Research from the journal General Dentistry found participants who ate cheese had higher pH levels in their mouths indicating that it appears to have anti-cavity properties.
When the pH is lower than 5.5 this can lead to tooth erosion and stripping tooth enamel. One reason cheese caused a higher pH level may be due to increased saliva production from chewing cheese. The researchers also speculated that certain compounds in cheese may adhere to tooth enamel protecting teeth from acid.
Milk contains both calcium and phosphorus and proteins called caseins. These substances combine together to coat our teeth preventing decay caused by common bacterial acids. The minerals calcium and phosphorus also strengthen and repair tooth enamel once they start to dissolve from acid.
Drinking milk after eating sugary foods can lower harmful acidic levels in your mouth. The key is to drink the milk after a dessert and not with it.
Green and Black Tea
Sipping on tea is always relaxing but now your teeth are getting a boost from it too. A 2009 study looking at 940 Japanese men found nearly every participant who daily drank one cup of green tea had reduced gum recession and bleeding. Green tea’s antioxidant properties are believed to be the reason for this reduction.
A 2014 meta-analysis also found regular consumption of green tea appears to significantly lower risk of oral cancer.
Black tea also is beneficial for overall oral health. It not only helps prevent bad breath but also promotes the health of your teeth and gums. The polyphenols – catechins and theaflavins - found in black tea help inhibit the growth of oral bacteria. Polyphenols found in this beverage can also reduce mouth infections and strep throat by again inhibiting bacterial growth.
Both fluoride and tannins present in black tea aid in creating acid resistance helping keep our tooth enamel strong.
If you’re not able to brush your teeth after a meal, pop in a stick of sugarless gum. Studies show chewing sugar-free gum after a meal or snack rinses off and neutralizes the acids released by the bacteria in plaque which can harm tooth enamel. Chewing stimulates saliva secretion washing away food particles caught between teeth.
Look for sugarless gums containing the artificial sweetener xylitol. Xylitol inhibits the growth of Streptococcus mutans, a bacteria found in the mouth that can cause cavities.
Healthy crunchy foods
Think of healthy ‘noisy’ foods where you have to chew them up vigorously such as apples, carrots, celery, cucumbers, broccoli or cauliflower. Chomping on these foods helps mechanically loosen up dental plaque preventing it from remaining in your mouth and sticking to teeth.