7 foods and drinks with surprising oral health benefits
Healthy eating is essential for our general health so the mouth and teeth are no exception to this principle. Whilst brushing, flossing, and using mouthwashes are important to prevent tooth decay and gum inflammation, eating the right foods will also help. And of-course, we all need to visit our dentist Brunswick at Coburg Dental Group on a regular basis to check that everything is in order, before symptoms develop. A healthy diet will assist in maintaining healthier teeth and gums and preventing common dental issues including tooth decay and gum disease. Here are our top 7 foods and drinks for healthy teeth and gums.
1. Dairy Foods
Milk and foods derived from milk are known as dairy foods which is one of the core food groups. These foods are an important component of a healthy diet for people of all ages. Foods such as milk, all cheeses including cottage cheese, and yoghurts provide essential nutrients including carbohydrates, proteins, Vitamins A and B12 and the minerals calcium, phosphorous, zinc, potassium and magnesium.
Dairy foods are considered one of the best foods for dental health. It is well known that dairy foods can help prevent tooth decay and protect tooth enamel from erosion when acidic foods are consumed. This is because these foods contain casein which is a protein that combines with calcium and phosphorous, to create a protective protein film over the enamel surface of your teeth. So, cheese eaten after a meal can counteract the effects of acid left on the teeth particularly if you have eaten sweets, citrus fruits, bread or other simple carbohydrates.
Flavoured milk drinks, however, still remain a concern because of the sugar content. Having these drinks occasionally is probably OK and they are certainly better than cordials, fizzy drinks and fruit juices which all contain a lot of sugar.
2. Fruits and vegetables
Some of the best foods for dental health are vegetables including carrots, broccoli, pumpkin and sweet potato. These contain Vitamin A, which is essential to the production of enamel which is the outer surface of the tooth.
Many fruits and vegetables like apples, celery, carrots and salad greens such as lettuce, spinach and kale have a high water content and a high fibre content. These foods are healthy for teeth and gums because they stimulate saliva production which in turn can dilute a food’s sugar content.
Vitamin C can help strengthen blood vessels and connective tissue and slow down the progression of gum disease by reducing inflammation. Fruits which are high in Vitamin C include citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits but they are also very acidic and can cause erosion of the enamel. Kakadu plums, acerola cherries, rose hip, chili peppers, guavas, sweet yellow peppers, black currants, cantaloupe, parsley, mustard spinach, kale, kiwis, broccoli, brussels sprouts, lychees, persimmons, strawberries and papayas are also high in Vitamin C and not acidic like the citrus fruits. So, with all acidic foods, after eating, it’s important to rinse your mouth with water in order to dilute the acid coming into contact with your teeth and to minimize the risk of erosion.
3. Fatty Fish
Fish that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, also contain high levels of vitamin D which is important for the absorption of calcium in the gut. These fish include salmon, mackerel, anchovies, herring, black cod, sardines, blue fin tuna, whitefish and bass. So, in order to get the full benefits of calcium in the diet, it’s also important to have foods that are rich in Vitamin D.
Water is essential to maintain life but as far as your dental health is concerned, it has several benefits. Saliva is 99.5% water so if you’re not drinking enough water, you may be dehydrated and this in turn that can thicken your saliva and increase the likelihood of tooth decay. Water is also essential for digestion as it helps to break down food, neutralises acids from bacteria, and lubricates food to facilitate swallowing. Water also has a cleansing effect by helping to reduce plaque and rinsing away food debris and drinks like coffee, tea and dark fruit juices which cause staining of teeth.
Water is much better for you than energy drinks, soft drinks, sports drinks, and fruit juices which all contain high levels of sugar. Tap water also contains fluoride which helps to make teeth more resistant to tooth decay. However, many brands of bottled water do not have this benefit.
Nuts contain many nutrients which are essential for health. These include Vitamin E, magnesium and phosphorous which we need for good bone and gum health. Nuts are also high in fibre which helps to stimulate salivary flow. Several types of nuts also have anti-inflammatory properties. These include pistachios, walnuts, Brazil nuts and almonds. However, if you’re wearing braces or have faulty fillings it might be wise to avoid eating nuts until your treatment is completed.
6. Green tea
Green tea contains a group of healthy chemicals called polyphenols that kill or suppress the bacteria that are known to create plaque. It also lowers the acidity of saliva and dental plaque to create an oral environment which can help to prevent cavities.
Green tea also contains catechin which is an antioxidant substance. It can help to reduce inflammation in the body including periodontal disease or gum inflammation which is so common in our society.
Cocoa and in particular the bean husk can help to harden tooth enamel which can render your teeth less likely to become decayed. The good news is that dark chocolate contains at least 70% cocoa and when eaten in moderation is an excellent superfood. Chocolate also contains polyphenols like green tea so it has an extra benefit and anti-oxidants which are good for gum health.
It is recommended to avoid ‘lighter’ or milk chocolates which are full of sugar – the darker chocolates contain higher amounts of the cocoa and so these are better.