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Top 8 Foods and Drinks for Healthy Teeth and Gums

26 Sep 2016  |  No Comments

Tooth decay often occurs when the acidity level of the mouth becomes too high, leading to demineralisation of the teeth. Simple carbohydrates (such as sugars) are considered to be a major culprit, as they are metabolised in the mouth by the bacteria in dental plaque. This in turn leads to a drop in pH level of the mouth and acid attack on the teeth.

The matter of sugars and tooth decay is not always a straightforward linear equation though. For instance, it can depend on various factors – such as the susceptibility of the individual to tooth decay, and on the timing and frequency of sugar intake.

Certainly it appears that some foods can increase the risk of decay, while others can actually slow it down or prevent it. In this post we take a look at both.

Risky foods for the teeth

  • Sugar-laden foods – but especially those that remain in contact with the teeth for a longer time, such as hard candies and lollipops.
  • Starchy foods that tend to stick to the teeth – such as soft breads, biscuits and crackers.
  • Sweetened drinks – including soft drinks, energy drinks and wine. Fruit juices are also not recommended – and that includes the ‘natural’ no-added-sugar varieties.

Apart from the foods we eat, there are of course other risk factors for tooth decay. These include suffering from low saliva flow or dry mouth – something that can occur in the elderly and in people on certain medications. Other risk factors include poor oral hygiene, poor general health and smoking.

Better foods for the teeth

Some foods can slow or even prevent decay. Those that require considerable chewing can be very helpful as they can improve the flow of saliva – which contains calcium and other organic compounds known to be involved in tooth remineralisation.

 

Beneficial foods include:

  • Unsweetened calcium-rich dairy foods – such as cheese which also helps increase saliva flow due to chewing action, and high-quality yogurts that contain beneficial bacteria
  • Fibre-rich fruits – fruits that are high in fibre and require considerable chewing action can be very good for increasing saliva flow and for ‘cleaning’ the mouth. Unpeeled raw apples are an example – indicating that those sayings many of us heard as children about apples being good for your teeth might have some truth in them!
    However it’s also important to be aware that virtually all fruits contain natural acids that can harm the teeth, particularly if eaten to excess – so some caution and moderation is required when it comes to fruit intake.
  • Fibrous vegetables – in a similar way to apples, veg such as carrots, celery and lettuce can be beneficial for teeth.
  • Leafy greens that contain calcium – kale, spinach, collard greens and silverbeet are examples.
  • Seeds, nuts and legumes – many of these contain tooth-protecting calcium and phosphorus. Almonds are a particularly good source of calcium for example.

Beneficial liquids:

  • Plain water – this is the best liquid for teeth, as it is very hydrating, it cleans the mouth, and it is good for our health in general.
  • Plain milk – which contains calcium in both full fat and low fat varieties.
  • Tea – green and black tea contain polyphenols that can help restrict the growth of mouth bacteria. However, it’s better to have your cuppa unsweetened.

The main thing to do is maintain a balanced diet – one that contains a wide variety of healthy foods and drinks. Doing so means that no foods need to be ‘forbidden’ but just not consumed too often or used as a replacement for healthy meals. It’s also important to practice good oral hygiene and to have regular check-ups with a family dentist in Ryde.

How to keep teeth healthy: a summary

To sum up, taking care of your teeth need not be a painful matter. For instance, there is no requirement to give up your favourite treats, but rather to enjoy them in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet, in combination with regular teeth cleaning and visits to a Ryde dental care clinic.

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