Ever heard the saying you are what you eat? It’s not meant literally but alludes to the effect that diet and nutrition can have on our overall health. What you eat is particularly relevant when it comes to oral health so keep reading for the low down on what you should eat and why.
A great oral hygiene routine and regular dental check-ups can only take your smile so far. For long-term tooth care, we need to address our nutrition and make sure we’re eating lots of the good things and less of the bad. For example, sugary or starchy foods (that most of us love) promote the growth of the bacteria that cause gum disease and tooth decay. We’re not saying you can’t have these types of foods, but you should keep them to a minimum, especially the sugary stuff, and focus on nutrient-rich foods from diverse food groups.
A balanced diet containing lots of vegetables, fruits, and high-protein and calcium-rich foods is key, and don’t forget to add lots of whole grains too. It’s easier to keep on track than you think, provided you’re willing to take a bit of time to plan and prepare your meals. There’s a huge amount of great, healthy, and smile-friendly recipes to be found online or in magazines that can really help entice you to eat right.
The best foods for healthy teeth and gums
- We’ll go into more detail further on (by listing some of the foods you should be eating) but in general, you should be eating:
- Vegetables and fresh fruits – fantastic nutritional values and the teeth cleaning benefits of chewing and rinsing as you eat.
- Calcium-rich foods like dairy products, fortified soy beverages, canned fish, tofu, nuts, berries, and dark-leafed vegetables promote healthy and strong teeth.
- Crunchy foods are great too as they get the saliva flowing
- Water is the best thing to drink for a healthy mouth as it helps rinse away lots of the bacteria and food particles that cause plaque.
Eat these foods for better oral health
Here’s the specific list we mentioned earlier. Eating lots of the following will increase tooth and gum health for an all-around nicer smile.
Carrots, Celery, Fennel & other crisp or crunchy veggies
The best vegetables are crunchy because they force us to chew a lot. This means that your teeth are getting a sort of brushing while you eat, which helps to remove bacteria and plaque that gets swallowed and destroyed. The crunchy veggies also contain a lot of water and stimulate saliva production, so your mouth gets rinsed while you eat. Of the bunch, celery and carrots are the best but there’s a whole umbrella of great vegetables you can choose from.
Lettuce, Spinach, Kale, and other dark leafy greens
These are amazingly healthy for your whole body, not just your teeth, and should be a pillar of any healthy diet. The darker the leaf the better and the more calcium, folic acid, vitamins, and minerals will be contained within.
Quality meat offers a wide variety of valuable vitamins and minerals, plus the protein we need to stay strong. Meat also needs to be chewed which increases our saliva production. One thing with meat though is to make sure you floss properly so that no particles are left in between your teeth after brushing.
The best thing about fish (besides it being super healthy for your body, brain, and heart) is that it contains a lot of phosphorus, which is a vital mineral to protect your tooth enamel.
Nuts & berries
Nuts are great for brain health but they’re also excellent for your teeth. Not only do nuts contain lots of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D and so many more vitamins and minerals, but they also brush your teeth while you eat and promote saliva production. Nuts are one of the best things you can eat for your smile.
Fruits are a vital part of any diet and of the many varieties, the hard fibrous kind are the most beneficial. This means fruits like apples or pears top our list as they help brush as you eat and increase salivation. Choose fresh fruits, not juice, for the maximum benefit to your oral health.
Tea & coffee
These drinks are usually left out of the best foods for your teeth discussion due to their ability to stain and discolor your pearly whites over time. While it is true, that they do contribute to dull teeth, they also contain polyphenols, which offer many health benefits. At the top of the list is their role as antioxidants to fight cell damage and reduce inflammation. Green and black teas are best, but many others will also help – coffee included.
Garlic and onions
These two might not be doing your breath any favors but their contents (allicin in garlic) can help reduce tooth decay and periodontal disease. Raw onions, like those you would use to top a hamburger, have strong antibacterial properties that reduce the bacteria known to cause gum disease and cavities.
In general, simple carbs will adhere to your teeth and possibly contribute to tooth decay, but that isn’t the case with most whole grains. These contain less digestible food for bacteria and are part of a balanced nutritional approach to eating.
What about some foods to eat after surgery like having wisdom teeth removed?
In general, you should try to eat as normal, by which we mean to choose a well-rounded diet that hits the major food groups. The catch is that you might need to stick to soft or pureed foods for a week or two. This will mean a lot of soups and smoothies but you can also take regular meals and blend them to a soft consistency so you can easily consume them. For more ideas about how to eat after an oral surgery like having your wisdom teeth taken out, visit this helpful blog.
The experts agree, that eating right is all about balance and rounding out your intake to the major food groups. What’s good for the body is likely good for your smile, so it bears paying attention to what you consume. The foods mentioned above are by no means the only smile-friendly items on the menu but do serve as a solid starting point to get you eating in the right direction. Whole foods, raw veggies, and fruits, tea, coffee plus lots of water are the building blocks for a great smile to be proud of.
For more tips on eating for oral health, visit this article and broaden your recipe list and your palate.
Cheers to healthy eating and healthy teeth as a result!