Dental health isn’t only about keeping your teeth clean and having regular checkups. (Although those two things are really important.) You might be surprised how important your diet is to maintaining good oral health. Of course we all know that too much sugar can cause cavities, but the links between diet and teeth go much deeper than that.
Balanced nutrition is important to both your overall health and keeping your teeth healthy, but here are some specifics to consider:
- Water – Drinking lots of water is good for you in general, and it’s good for your teeth, too. Especially if your city’s water is fluoridated, water straight from the tap can really help your teeth stay healthy.
- Dairy – Milk, cheese, and yogurt provide calcium your teeth need to stay strong. They’re also low in sugar (unless your yogurt has added sugar—be sure to read the label!) which makes them a good overall choice.
- Protein – Meat, poultry, fish, and eggs are rich in phosphorus and proteins that are essential for healthy enamel. (Lean options are best.) Low-carbohydrate nuts are a also great choice, since the bacteria that cause cavities need those carbs to survive.
- Fruits & Vegetables – High-fiber, low-sugar plats are great for your teeth. Chewing these foods helps to keep your teeth clean by stimulating saliva production, and your body will thank you for the vitamins and minerals, too.
- Grains – Whole grains are an important part of a balanced diet, and therefore they’re important for your teeth, too. Choose whole grains like oatmeal, whole wheat, and brown rice.
Avoid sugar—particularly added sugar (even in your coffee). But beyond this first rule, here are some other foods to avoid:
- Sticky Foods – Anything sticky can cause problems, because sticky food stays in your mouth longer, giving bacteria time to multiply with a ready food source. Be sure to brush after eating anything sticky—even healthier foods like dried fruits.
- Soda & Sports Drinks – Drink water instead of sugary drinks. Many sports drinks are surprisingly high in sugar, and soda certainly is. Break the habit and switch to plain water. Your teeth (and your waistline) will thank you for it.
- Starches – Crispy snacks like chips are delicious, but those starches tend to get caught in teeth, again giving cavity-causing bacteria time to grow. Don’t indulge too often, and remember to floss thoroughly to be sure you don’t leave anything behind.
- Citrus – Although high in vitamin C, citrus fruits are also very acidic, and regular exposure to that acid can erode enamel and make your teeth vulnerable to decay. Drinking lots of water when eating citrus can help mitigate the risks.
- Ice – Cold drinks are great, but chewing ice is really hard on your teeth. The combination of cold and stress from biting into such a hard substance can damage enamel, and even crack or break teeth in some cases.