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Can My Diet Help My Smile?

How to choose foods that help your teeth stay bright, white, and healthy.

WebMD Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Q: I know coffee stains my teeth, but are there any foods that will help keep them looking white and healthy? 

A: Regular brushing and flossing are your best bets for keeping your teeth healthy. But yes, certain foods can keep your smile looking bright by contributing to your overall oral health.

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Saliva is a clear, watery liquid made by several glands in your mouth area. Saliva is an important part of a healthy body. It is mostly made of water. But saliva also contains important substances that your body needs to digest food and keep your teeth strong. Saliva is important because it: Keeps your mouth moist and comfortable Helps you chew, taste, and swallow Fights germs in your mouth and prevents bad breath Has proteins and minerals that protect tooth enamel and prevent tooth...

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For instance, foods that increase saliva production help wash food off your teeth as well as neutralize the acids produced by foods as you chew them -- acids that can erode tooth enamel and contribute to tooth decay. Those foods include sugar-free gum and drinks, cheese, and milk.

Preventing gum disease is also crucial for keeping your teeth healthy and your smile beautiful. Fish and flaxseed are both rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which prevent inflammation and may help protect against gum disease.

Foods to avoid, by the way, include sugary drinks and snacks (the sugar promotes bacteria that increase acids that can erode tooth enamel and lead to cavities); some starchy foods such as rice, potatoes, and pasta (which also raise acid levels in the mouth); and, yes, coffee, tea, and red wine, which can stain teeth. Choose water and sugar-free drinks as often as you can -- they help wash acid-producing food from your mouth.

Reviewed on April 23, 2011

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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