Regular brushing and flossing remain your best protection against tooth decay and gum problems. But a tooth-friendly diet can also help keep your smile bright and your gums healthy.
A balanced diet that provides adequate nutrition can help promote healthy teeth. Many nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium and others, are essential to oral health.
Along with eating a healthy diet, it’s smart to limit snacking. The flow of saliva cleanses the mouth and teeth, removing cavity-promoting foods. But “if you snack all the time, you expose your teeth again and again to foods that can erode enamel,” says Anthony M. Iacopino, DMD, PhD, dean of the University of Manitoba Faculty of Dentistry.
The best advice to prevent cavities? Limit your eating to three meals a day, says Iacopino. If you snack, reach for a food that’s less likely to cause tooth decay.
What are your best choices? Here’s the latest on foods to choose -- and foods to avoid -- in order to keep your teeth healthy and your smile bright.
Foods to Avoid for Healthy, White Teeth
Sugary drinks: When bacteria in the mouth break down simple sugars, they produce acids. These can erode tooth enamel, creating pits where cavities can form. Sugary drinks, including soft drinks and fruit drinks, consist almost entirely of simple sugars.
“Because people tend to sip them, sugared beverages may raise acid levels over a long period of time,” says Steven E. Schonfeld, DDS, PhD, a dentist in private practice and spokesperson for the American Dental Association. “Carbonated drinks are especially bad for teeth, since carbonation increases acidity.” Some studies have singled out sports drinks as the worst offenders for eroding enamel.
Candy and highly-sweetened snacks: Most candies are loaded with sugar, which increases acid levels from bacteria in the mouth. Sticky and gummy candies pose the biggest threat, since they adhere to teeth, making it hard for saliva to wash them away.
Some starchy foods: Starches also raise acid levels from bacteria in the mouth, eroding tooth enamel. Starchy foods include breads, pastas, rice, and potatoes.
The more refined or cooked a starch, the more likely it is to raise acid levels in the mouth. Raw starches in the form of vegetables tend not to endanger tooth enamel.
Sugary breakfast cereals: Foods that contain a mixture of sugar and starch should be avoided. Snacks such as ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, pastries, and many processed foods may be bad for teeth. The combination of starch and sugar is more likely to get stuck in plaque between teeth.
Coffee, tea, and red wine: Sweetened tea or coffee raises acid levels, weakening enamel. And because they are often sipped slowly, acid levels may remain high over a longer period of time, raising the danger. Coffee, tea, and red wine also tend to stain teeth.