There is a broad range of foods that are great for the health of your teeth and gums, but did you know there are also some healthy foods that can damage your teeth, as well?
If you do the shopping for your family, it can be tough to find foods everyone will eat that also happen to be good for your health. If you’ve had issues with cavities, in adults or children, it may help to consider changing the types of snacks and veggies you choose. When changes can’t be made—some of us will never give up potato chips, for example—there are ways to mitigate the damage, with small tweaks to the way you snack.
Best Foods for Your Teeth and Gums
Cheese and Dairy: Foods like cheese, yogurt, and milk are great for your teeth because they contain calcium and protein and can actually lower the pH level of your mouth. Cheese is a great choice if you drink red wine, as the waxy texture can coat your teeth and prevent damage and staining to your enamel. Yogurt and probiotics are great for your mouth, as well, as good bacteria always help crowd out the bad bacteria that cause cavities.
Fresh, Raw Crunchy Fruits and Veggies: A wide array of crunchy fruits and veggies are a fun and healthy choice for your teeth. The crunchier the better, since foods like broccoli and celery have a texture that can actually clen your teeth as you chew. You still want to brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste, but finishing an unhealthy meal with crunchy veggies is a great way to hold you over until you brush.
Great Choices: raw broccoli and cauliflower, carrots, raw turnips and jicama, celery, apples, and crunchy Asian pears. (If your family is used to cooked vegetables with their meals, try to work these crunchy raw or just-blanched versions is as afternoon snacks.)
Leafy Greens: Kale, spinach, collard greens, baby mixed greens—these are all fabulous choices for your oral health because they contain such a broad array of vital nutrients. They may not act directly when they come in contact with your teeth, but they support the body systems that keep our teeth and gums healthy.
Healthy Foods That Can Harm Your Teeth
Citrus: Acidity is terrible on your enamel. Chronically consuming lemonade and sharp citrus fruits like grapefruit and tangerines can hasten the onset of cavities. If someone in your home loves citrus, encourage them to rinse with water or consume dairy afterward to help neutralize the acid residue left on your teeth. (Just don’t brush your teeth immediately after your morning grapefruit; you can actually abrade your enamel much worse, by rubbing the acids deeper into its structure.)
Dried Fruit: As a whole food that is high in fiber, dried fruit are a great choice when the fresh variety is not around. But the fact is, dried fruit can be as sugary and sticky as candy, and that’s no good for preventing cavities.
Almonds: Despite their numerous health benefits, whole almonds’ wedged shape can actually contribute to cracks in your teeth. If you love almonds, try to avoid crunching them whole, when possible. Sliced almonds and almond butter are just as good for you as the whole variety, and less likely to lead to a cracked molar.
Worst Foods for Cavities
Potato Chips and Processed Potato Snacks: Any delicious potato-based snacks are going to leave a microscopic buffet in your mouth for hungry s. mutans mouth bacteria. This doesn’t mean to you have to ditch them entirely, but educate your family about rinsing their mouths after they snack, or chewing on something more healthy afterwards.
Candy: We all know sugar contributes to cavities but do you know why? Bacteria love to consume the excess sugar residue left on our teeth when we consume candy, which can stick to your teeth and linger there for hours. During those hours that bacteria are feeding, they are also excreting acids that eat into the enamel of your teeth. When your family eats candy, encourage them to rinse their mouths with water when they are finished, and brush their teeth within the hour. Sour candy is especially harmful, since it is highly acidic as well as sugary.
White Bread: Just like potato-based snacks, chewy white bread leaves a sticky residue on your teeth, as simple carbohydrates are so quickly broken down into sugars. If you are looking to reduce the level of bacteria growing in your family’s mouths, white bread is as dangerous as sugary candy. Choose whole grain bread instead, as complex carbohydrates are not converted to sugars as quickly.
Soda: Whether it’s the sugar-containing or diet variety, soda is never a good choice for your teeth. The bubbly beverages create an acidic environment, adds sugar to your mouth, and also can stain your teeth. Drinking through a straw can certainly minimize the direct contact with your teeth, but limiting your family’s soda intake is always a healthy idea.