You probably already know that avoiding sugary and even acidic foods and drinks is a great way to protect your teeth and gums through your diet. You can, however, also eat your way to a healthier smile by choosing foods that contain nutrients that fortify your teeth and other ingredients that help combat the bacteria that are responsible for tooth decay, inflammation, and gum disease.
What Is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is the process of the demineralization of the teeth by which the outer layer of the teeth (tooth enamel) is weakened as a result of losing its minerals to the acids produced by harmful bacteria in the mouth and acids introduced to the mouth in foods and beverages.
Tooth decay first forms as a soft spot on a tooth’s enamel. Left untreated, it eventually worsens and develops into cavities (dental caries) that weaken the teeth, lead to serious infections, and can, ultimately, compromise an entire tooth’s structure.
8 Foods That Help Prevent Tooth Decay
1. Dairy Products
Dairy products help protect your teeth both on the inside and on the outside. They contain minerals like calcium and phosphate which help to remineralize your teeth, strengthening the hard enamel layer that protects them from infection and decay.
Dairy also has an alkaline pH level which helps to neutralize any acids that are inside your mouth as a result of eating or drinking acidic foods and beverages or as a byproduct of harmful bacteria. As a result, the acid is neutralized and can’t break down (demineralize) your tooth enamel as efficiently.
2. Fiber-Rich Foods
Foods that are rich in fiber help to keep your teeth and gums clean, free from debris, and free from plaque. These types of foods also require more saliva for chewing and digesting, so they get your salivary glands working overtime.
This means that your saliva also washes sugar and bacteria away from your teeth while helping to remineralize the enamel as a result of being washed with your saliva that can deliver minerals like fluoride, phosphate, and calcium to the teeth.
3. Sugar-Free Chewing Gum
Sugar-free chewing gum helps protect and fortify teeth in the same way that fiber-rich foods do – it gets the saliva flowing. Most sugar-free gum also contains an artificial sweetener called xylitol which has also been shown to help combat harmful bacteria in the mouth.
Just be careful with products containing xylitol if you have pets. This artificial sweetener is highly toxic to cats and dogs.
4. Green Tea
Green tea contains both antioxidants and phenols that help to fight harmful bacteria in the mouth while also reducing inflammation. As a result, this naturally sugar-free beverage is a great choice – even better than water – for rinsing your mouth out after a meal or sugary snack.
5. Fluoridated Water
Many cities add fluoride to their water supplies. This water is called fluoridated water and it is great for your teeth because teeth can get remineralized both by the fluoride they are exposed to while water passes over them and also by the fluoride that you ingest.
You can drink fluoridated water or use it in your cooking (dehydrated soups or other items) to make sure you’re getting enough fluoride in your diet to keep your teeth strong.
6. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens like spinach and kale are a good source of both calcium and fiber. The fiber helps to keep your teeth clean while you’re eating, and the calcium helps to fortify them from within.
7. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids which are great anti-inflammatory agents. They’re not only good for brain health and function, but they are also really good for your gums. Omega-3s help to support your immune system and reduce inflammation, protecting your gums against periodontal disease and your teeth from the harmful bacteria associated with it.
8. Whole Grains
Whole grains contain iron and B vitamins, and these nutrients can help keep your gums healthy in support of your teeth. Whole grains also contain minerals like magnesium that can help strengthen your teeth just like calcium and fluoride. These grains are also high in fiber which is great for both your digestive system and your saliva flow.
Prevent Tooth Decay, Gum Disease, and More With Routine Dental Exams and Cleanings
The best way to keep your teeth and gums healthy is with preventative dental care including daily brushing and flossing using proper techniques, professional fluoride treatments, dental sealants, and visiting the dentist on a regular basis.
We recommend that most healthy adults visit the dentist for a dental cleaning and examination at least twice a year. If you’ve been diagnosed with periodontal disease or another oral health concern, then we might recommend more frequent visits to keep your oral health properly managed.
To learn more about preventative dental care or to schedule your next dental appointment with one of our dentists at Eastgate Dental Excellence, we welcome you to contact our office today.