Foods for Bright Teeth and a Healthier Smile
Hidden Threats to Your Teeth
Teeth are strong and resilient. But teeth with root canals or fillings are often weakened. Biting down on something hard can cause them to crack or fracture. To avoid trouble, don’t chew ice. Be careful eating olives or fruits that contain pits. Sometimes even foods that have been pitted retain a stray pit. Avoid unpopped popcorn kernels, as well.
Foods to Choose for Healthy, White Teeth
Water: The best thirst quencher is also the smartest choice for your teeth. Water helps wash acid-producing foods from the mouth.
Sugar-free drinks: If you like your water sweetened, choose sugar-free drinks. Because sugar-free drinks wash acid-producing food from the mouth, they may help reduce cavity risk.
Sugar-free chewing gum: Chewing gum increases the flow of saliva, which helps neutralize acids in the mouth, protecting tooth enamel. The flow of saliva also washes food out of the mouth, limiting the amount of time it is in contact with teeth. Sugar-free chewing gum is also a good choice when you crave something sweet.
Citrus fruit: Although it is acidic, citrus fruit increases saliva flow. In fact, research shows that oranges, grapefruits, and other citrus fruit tend to protect tooth enamel. Because citrus fruit contains a lot of water, it also helps wash away acid-producing bacteria.
Cheese and milk: Cheese and milk protect tooth enamel and ward off cavities in several ways. First, they encourage saliva production, which neutralizes acids in the mouth. The protein, calcium and phosphorous in cheese and milk also buffer acids, protecting enamel from erosion. Studies suggest that cheese and milk may even help strengthen the protective minerals in teeth surfaces.
Fish and flax: By far the biggest threat to healthy teeth is gum disease. It occurs when bacteria collect in pockets. This causes inflammation that can damage the connective tissue anchoring teeth to bone. Foods that reduce inflammation may protect against gum disease.
Omega-3 fatty acids are the most potent anti-inflammatory nutrients. This form of fat is found in fish, fish oil, and flaxseed. “People who consume diets high in omega-3s are more resistant to inflammation and infection,” says Iacopino. “We also think they may be more resistant to gum disease.”
Cocoa: Good news for chocoholics: Substances found in cocoa appear to dampen inflammation and may help protect against erosion and decay. Even chocolate milk, although it contains some sugar, doesn’t seem to increase the risk of cavities compared to snacks like cookies, chips, and raisins. Dark chocolate is a good choice, since it is lower in sugar than milk chocolate.