Updated June 7, 2018
Your waistline isn’t the only thing to suffer from frequent dietary splurges; Your teeth can also take a beating. Whether you are interested in foods that prevent tooth decay or foods for healthy teeth and gums, you have come to the right place. Here is a list of the best and the worst foods for your teeth, so you know which are the best foods for dental health and what to leave off your plate whenever possible.
Good Food For Teeth:
Cheese, Yogurt, and Egg Yolks
Cheese, yogurt, and egg yolks are all great choices to foster oral health. Dairy products contain calcium and phosphorous, which can protect your enamel and provide essential minerals to teeth. Casein is also found in cheese, which can also strengthen enamel. Additionally, egg yolks are also high in vitamin D and calcium, two components you need for strong teeth.
Meat and Tofu
Lean meats, fatty fish, and tofu are excellent main dishes for any meal as they are good sources of phosphorus. Turkey is especially preferable, as it is non-fermentable, meaning that it battles cavity-causing reactions.
Foods High in Fiber
Meals high in fiber, such as pastas, breads, and other whole grains are all among foods that prevent tooth decay. They do this by keeping your saliva flowing and defend against harmful tooth decay.
Leafy vegetables such as broccoli, bok choy, okra, kale, and collard greens are all great foods for your teeth and gums. They also give you the minerals you need while keeping your plate vegetarian!
Crunchy vegetables are nature’s own little toothbrushes. They stimulate the flow of saliva, and as you chew, they scrub the surface of your teeth. Why is saliva stimulation important? Saliva is an enzyme that protects your teeth from the acid in foods and cleans out the small nooks in your mouth that a toothbrush can’t reach. Celery is an especially good veggie option, as its fibrous nature can mimic the hygienic powers of floss.
Apples are among the best fruit for teeth. Given their texture, they will not only scrub away plaque when you eat them — they can also freshen your breath. If your mouth needs a quick pick-me-up in the middle of the day, try popping a couple slices to both curb hunger and make your mouth that much fresher.
It is still up for debate whether or not artificial sweeteners are good for you overall, but there are some like Xylitol that can actually prevent cavities. However, they are generally better than regular processed sugar… so instead of picking up that lollipop, try some sugar-free gum.
Nuts may not seem like a good option for your teeth, but they actually contain a lot of essential nutrients that will benefit your teeth. Many nut varieties include iron, magnesium, and calcium for teeth strength, and fiber and protein to help with plaque. So feel free to enjoy chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
Worst Food For Your Teeth:
Citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, grapefruit, and oranges are likely the most obvious dental health “no-no.” Citric acid is the number one cause of enamel erosion and tooth decay. This is not to say you need to steer clear entirely, but try not to sip on your lemonade everyday. If you must enjoy a citrus beverage from time to time, drink it in one sitting, then avoid additional citric acids for the remainder of the day. (Read more: What To Know About Teeth Sensitivity.)
It’s no surprise that sugar-filled candies have a spot on this list. While hard candies are the worst as they stay in your mouth longer, all types subject your teeth to cavities, and you risk getting the sugar stuck in your teeth to attract bacteria. Your best bet is to savor sweets in moderation.
Vinegar is extremely acidic, and pickled veggies also include sugar. Steer clear of them when possible, as they have no redeeming qualities for your teeth.
Tomatoes and Tomato-based Products
While super fresh and good for you, tomatoes are extremely acidic. In order to cut some of the acidity, eat them as part of a meal to reduce some of the negative effects on enamel while still gaining the positive health effects. Tomato-based products such as salsa, pasta sauce, and ketchup can also take a toll on your enamel.
Dentists are used to the question “is popcorn bad for your teeth?” Popcorn can be good for you if you skip the butter and the handful of salt, but the kernels have a tendency to get stuck between teeth and wedge into the gum line, which can cause bacteria buildup and ultimately lead to cavities. Make sure to floss after you eat popcorn and brush your teeth to minimize potential damage.
Best Drinks for Your Teeth
Milk’s place on this list may come as no surprise. After all, it is the poster child for bone-healthy calcium. Milk is rich in calcium and Vitamin D, fostering healthy teeth and strong bones. Vitamin D is beneficial because it allows calcium to be absorbed by the body.
While water doesn’t have the enamel building calcium that milk does, it is still a great choice for your teeth. Water not only keeps you hydrated and healthy, but most water supplies in the U.S. are enriched with fluoride which will help your enable stay strong.
See also: Your Guide to Fluoride
While some teas are not recommended for tooth health, not all teas should be blacklisted. Teas without added sugars, especially teas that are light in color such as white tea or green tea can also be good choices for your teeth health. This is a good way to get your morning pick-me-up without taking a toll on your teeth!
Worst Drinks For Your Teeth
Soda is good for neither your body nor your teeth. It contains acids, carbonation, and sugars that work together to wreak havoc and contribute to tooth decay. The same effects apply to diet sodas.
Though kombucha offers a number of health benefits, be mindful of how this fermented beverage affects your teeth. Kombucha’s acidity can lead to enamel erosion. This does not mean you should completely avoid this gut health-fostering beverage, but simply drink it in moderation and take a few steps to care for your teeth in the process. These steps include:
- Drink kombucha in a short time frame rather than sipping on it throughout the day
- Rinse your mouth out after drinking
- Wait at least half an hour to eat or brush your teeth after drinking kombucha to allow enamel to harden and prevent damage and decay.
Adults who cherish a glass of red wine at the end of a long day are likely already painfully aware that the stuff isn’t an oral hygiene winner. However, it’s not just Merlot, Cabernet, and Pinot Noir that cause problems. Red, white, and rosé wine can all weaken and stain the surface of your teeth.
A classic holiday beverage that, despite its inclusion of milk and eggs, is not good for your oral hygiene. It’s loaded with sugar and fat, and sticks to your teeth for long after you’ve finished the last sip. If you choose to drink it, keep a glass of water on hand to wash down residual sugars.
This one is notoriously tough for all those who require coffee every morning to kickstart brain function. Coffee contains high amounts of tannic acid, which wears away enamel and can stain your teeth. While there are some health benefits to your daily cup of joe, unfortunately, dental hygiene isn’t one of them.
While some foods and beverages on this list should be avoided, you won’t necessarily be looking at dentures if you decide to treat yourself from time to time. If you do eat or drink items on the “bad for your teeth” list, make sure you enjoy in moderation, brush well, and floss often.
Images courtesy of Pixabay.com.