As January comes to a close, it’s tempting to ditch the healthy eating resolutions you made on New Year’s and indulge in sugary treats instead. Consuming sweets in moderation is fine — but the price your dental health will pay for eating them too frequently can be high, resulting in things like tooth decay and cavities. Even common habits like drinking coffee or soda can weaken enamel and stain teeth. While the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing twice a day, there are additional steps you can take to protect your teeth from wear and tear and keep your gums in tip-top. Among them, one of the most important is prioritizing nutritious foods as part of your daily diet. Keep reading for a list of foods that are delicious and good for your teeth.
How Your Diet Impacts Your Dental Health
Dental health becomes more important as we age. According to MedlinePlus.gov, age-related changes like reduced bone density and slower rates of cell renewal affect the tissue and bone in the mouth. This increases the risk of oral health issues — including gum disease and dry mouth — over time. If left unaddressed, poor oral health may even lead to other health conditions, like heart disease and pneumonia.
Your diet plays a role in your dental health because you’re eating and drinking throughout the day — and obviously, all of that food passes through your mouth. The ADA warns that frequently consuming acidic foods could erode enamel and make teeth prone to decay, while sticky foods like dried fruit may also lead to damage, as they typically stay on teeth longer. Plus, excessive alcohol consumption may reduce saliva production over time; the ADA notes that this triggers tooth decay and other oral infections, including gum disease.
All of that probably sounds scary. Fortunately, there are plenty of foods you can enjoy that counterbalance these effects and actually contribute to healthy teeth.
Foods That Are Good For Your Teeth
Consuming an array of sustaining foods on a regular basis will nourish your teeth and gums. Here are three nutrients the ADA suggests targeting when making food choices:
- Calcium: Foods such as cheese, milk, fortified tofu, yogurt, leafy greens, and almonds are all rich in calcium. This mineral (known as the most abundant mineral in the body) strengthens enamel — the hard outer shell of a tooth. The Mayo Clinic notes that the recommended daily calcium intake for women 19 to 50 years old is 1,000 milligrams (mg).
- Phosphorus: This mineral works alongside calcium to protect and rebuild tooth enamel. The best sources of phosphorus include meat, poultry, eggs, nuts, and legumes. According to the experts at Mount Sinai Health System, adults should aim to consume 700 mg per day.
- Fiber (through fruits and vegetables): Fruits and vegetables like apples, oranges, carrots, and celery are fibrous. Chewing these foods helps stimulate saliva production to eliminate harmful acids and food particles from teeth. Also, vitamin C-rich produce is necessary for shielding gums and other tissues against bacterial infection and cell damage. Federal guidelines indicate that adults need to consume up to a combined 5 cups of fruits and vegetables each day.
The Bottom Line
It seems like the old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” might also be true for the dentist! Eating the right foods and taking care of your dental health will result in less frequent trips to the dentist and more protection against diseases over time — a win-win. For additional tips on achieving a brighter smile, check out these stories on using mouthwash before brushing and whether to choose dental floss over a water pick.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
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