While you may not dwell on your oral health, you do want to make decisions that benefit your teeth and gums. You have a daily oral hygiene routine of flossing, teeth brushing and mouth washing. You do the best you can to see your dentist every six months. You avoid consuming too much sodas and sweets. You may think you’re doing a good job and doing all you can to ensure a long-lasting smile.
But what if what you’re eating can also help or hinder your oral health? Yes, sugar is often the culprit for causing gum disease and tooth decay. You’ve likely heard your dentist tell you how sugar in certain foods and drinks can get stuck on teeth surface and between teeth and begin to decay causing plaque which destroys tooth enamel.
Is this terrible cavity-causing plaque only come from sugary foods and drinks? The answer may surprise you. Foods that are acidic, and contain simple carbohydrates can also weaken teeth and gums by eating away at tooth enamel.
What foods should you eat to strengthen the health of teeth and gums? Below are some food items you may consider eating more regularly:
- Raw vegetables: carrots, celery, cucumbers, broccoli, etc.
- Sugar-free chewing gum
- Sugar-free mints
- Leafy greens: chard, spinach, kale, arugula, etc.
- Oranges (in limited quantities)
These food items stimulate saliva production and contain important minerals and vitamins that help build up tooth enamel and boost the immunity of gum tissue. Strong teeth and gums are more resilient to decay and disease.
You may have noticed that there wasn’t any mention of drinks up above. Unlike food, there isn’t as much debris left in the mouth after drinking a beverage. However, sugary and acidic drinks such as sodas, fruit juices, coffee, tea, alcohol, and sports drinks do leave behind an unpleasant film on the teeth and gums which can cause oral health problems if teeth aren’t properly cleaned. These beverages can be enjoyed in moderation followed by swishing the mouth out with water.
If you’re thirsty and want to give your mouth a good health boost, drink plain water. Tap water has a trace amount of fluoride in it to prevent cavities, has zero calories and contains essential nutrients.
The Importance of Saliva
The thing each of the aforementioned food items have common is that they stimulate the production of saliva. While saliva may be gross to some, it plays an important part in oral hygiene. Saliva comes from salivary glands located in the mouth. Typically eating and drinking stimulate the production of saliva and sleep often decreases saliva production. In a normal patient, the amount of saliva naturally produced is enough to wash and keep the mouth clean. Saliva is the body’s natural, built-in mouthwash. Saliva rinses debris from the mouth, helps keep surfaces of the mouth free from food debris and contains enzymes that break apart bacteria that could lead to plaque. Those who suffer from dry mouth not only have chronic discomfort, but they are also at a greater risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Foods that are crunchy such as raw vegetables and nuts and chewy foods such as sugar-free mints and gums promote the production of saliva that washes stuck and leftover food particles as well as coat teeth and gums with a slippery coating that keeps other food particles from sticking to teeth and gums.
What one eats can influence the health of one’s teeth and gums. Vegetables, leafy greens, sugar-free gum, apples, cheese and yogurt are some foods that stimulate saliva production and supply essential minerals and vitamins to teeth and gums. Diet alone isn’t enough to ensure healthy teeth and gums. Patients much practice a strong oral hygiene routine that includes flossing, teeth brushing and the use of mouthwash and regular visits to the dental office. If it has been longer than six months since your last dental appointment, contact your dentist today to schedule an appointment.