You know that brushing your teeth, flossing, and going to the dentist regularly keep your teeth clean and prevent plaque. But did you know there’s more to pearly white chompers than that? What you eat (and don’t eat) has a huge effect on your oral health.
In this article, we’ll let you in on some foods that are good for your teeth. But first, let’s look at how, exactly, tooth decay occurs.
What causes tooth decay?
Tooth decay, particularly cavities, are caused by plaque, a sticky film that hangs onto your teeth. We get plaque on our teeth from eating sugary foods, carb-rich foods, and starches. Plaque can be removed by thoroughly brushing your teeth, but when we miss spots, the plaque hardens. It then turns into tartar, which you need a dentist to remove.
Plaque contains acids that erode the surface of your enamel and make holes in your teeth, ie. cavities. Certain carb-heavy foods, like white bread, get converted into sugar and stick to your teeth. Bacteria in our mouths feed off of sugar to survive, turning them acidic. The acid created by bacteria bores holes into our teeth, creating cavities.
Foods bad for teeth
To maintain your oral health, the main thing to protect yourself from is carbohydrates, especially sugar and white bread.
Sugar in general causes tooth decay, though it depends on the form and the concentration. In particular, avoid hard candy and sugary drinks. Hard candy holds sugar to your teeth for an extended period of time, making damage inevitable. Sugary drinks, like pop and sweetened coffee, coat your teeth in sugar. The sugar gets trapped in hard-to-reach nooks and crannies, making it difficult to brush away.
White bread is particularly bad for oral health because it has the ability to stick to your teeth. Crackers and potato chips have the same effect, but white bread is more widely consumed, and few people know its effects on teeth.
Whole grain bread isn’t exemplary for teeth either, but it’s not as harmful as white bread. If you’re going to eat white bread, swish your mouth with warm water afterwards.
Now that we know which foods to avoid, let’s explore the good guys of oral health!
Foods that prevent tooth decay
Protein sources, like eggs, fish and chicken, are essential to oral health. Protein sources contain phosphorus, an essential mineral for keeping your jaw strong and remineralizing your teeth. Animal protein sources provide high amounts of phosphorus, but you can still get phosphorus from plant-based proteins. Soy, lentils, beans, and nuts are all great sources.
- Calcium-rich foods.
Calcium is essential in the formation of strong bones, and this includes your teeth. Calcium sources include dairy products like cheese, plain yogurt, and milk. Additionally, these foods are all saliva makers, which is essential for washing away particles and keeping bacteria at bay.
If you’re a vegan or don’t prefer to consume dairy, take advantage of plant-based calcium sources. These include almonds, bok choy, soy products, legumes, and seeds.
- Dark leafy greens.
Apart from being great for your overall health, dark leafy greens are particularly great for your teeth. Vegetables like kale, spinach and chard contain folic acid, which has tooth and gum benefits. Folic acid remineralizes your enamel, and it may also reduce gum inflammation and bleeding gums. Dark leafy greens also contain some calcium, which builds bone strength.
Dark leafy greens have a myriad of health benefits, not limited to oral health. They’re packed with vitamins, like vitamin K, C, E, and several B vitamins, while containing very few calories. They’re known to improve cardiovascular health and prevent inflammation, thus preventing a host of diseases.
If you’re having trouble including greens in your diet, you can add them to fruit smoothies where they’re practically undetectable. You can also add them to egg scrambles and stews, or make kale chips!
- Crunchy fruits and veggies.
Hard, crunchy fruits and veggies, like apples, carrots, celery and broccoli, are all great for your teeth. These fibrous fruits and veggies act as a mild abrasive, practically brushing your teeth. As you chew them, the fibres rub against your teeth, scrubbing off any plaque or debris. Think of them as nature’s toothbrush!
The dental benefits of these fruits and veggies have more to do with the act of chewing them than the fruits and veggies themselves. Unfortunately, you can’t just drink the juice of these fruits and veggies to get their dental benefits. In fact, apple juice in particular is highly acidic, which can erode your enamel over time, so drink it through a straw.
- Fluoridated water.
Fluoridated water supplies have been proven to reduce cavities. After municipalities started adding low levels of fluoride to drinking water in the 1940s, children had 50-70% less tooth decay than before the fluoride was added.
Most municipalities have fluoridated water, but some remote areas don’t. There are other fluoride sources besides tap water. You can find it in our toothpaste tablets, and your trip to the dentist can give you your fluoride fix. Read our previous blog post about fluoride and how it prevents plaque.
If fluoride isn’t your thing, try our fluoride-free toothpaste tablets.
- Green tea.
Green tea may have oral health benefits, like discouraging bacteria growth, remineralizing teeth, and reducing inflammation. This is all due to antioxidants found in green tea called catechins. These antioxidants can help to prevent inflammation of the gums and prevent gum disease.
- Sugar-free gum and candy.
Sugar-free gum and candy isn’t just harmless on your teeth–it’s actually beneficial. Chewing gum and sucking on sugar-free candy promotes saliva production, which helps wash away plaque and keep bacteria at bay. While sugar substitutes taste sweet, bacteria don’t feed on it the same way they do for regular sugars.
Look for gums and candies that use natural sugar substitutes, like stevia, xylitol, and erythritol. Avoid sweeteners like sorbitol and aspartame.
Food for thought
A diet that’s rich in vitamins & minerals and low in carbs & sugar isn’t just good for your oral health–it’s good for your overall health. The body is an interconnected system, and treating one area of your body right can have unexpected benefits.
This isn’t to say that you can’t enjoy sweets every now and then. It just means that you have to lessen the length of time sugar lingers on your teeth and increase your intake of tooth-friendly foods.
Looking to support your holistic dental health routine? Shop our fluoride toothpaste tablets or our non-fluoride tablets in Spearmint, Cinnamon, and Bubblegum. Our tablets are naturally flavoured and sweetened with tooth-friendly, all-natural xylitol. Brushing with our tablets creates a luxurious foam that makes brushing feel fun!