5 foods that will protect your teeth
We all know the basics of oral health by now – brush, floss and get regular check-ups. But did you know that eating right can also help to fend off decay, plaque, and gum disease?
Changes in your mouth start from the moment you eat, so it’s vital you’re not regularly exposing your teeth to foods that kick start the cycle of decay, plaque, and gum disease. With that in mind, let’s take a look at five foods that can help keep those teeth shining white, and those gums nice and healthy.
| Crisp fruit and veggies
Yes, there is plenty of truth in the old saying – ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ – or in this case, the dentist. Often referred to as “nature’s toothbrushes,” crisp fruits and vegetables such as apples, celery, and carrots scrub the teeth, stimulate the gums, and increase saliva flow. And all of this helps reduce the build up of plaque.
But that’s not all: Carrots in particular are high in vitamin A which is essential for healthy enamel. And celery, with its tasty (ok, maybe not so tasty) fibrous strands acts as a natural floss – dislodging plaque and helping to freshen the breath.
While crisp fruit will protect that winning smile, you need to make sure you’re looking after those gums too. That’s where ginger comes in.
Packed with antibacterial properties, ginger has been known to heal minor gum infections and reduce the swelling and redness that are often associated with a toothache. What’s more, ginger acts as an anti-inflammatory, helping to stave off periodontal disease and support healthy mouth tissue.
But’s its health benefits don’t end there – studies have shown that root ginger has similar properties to that of antibiotics, meaning you can use it to spice up your food, while giving your whole immune system a boost.
Of course this list wouldn’t be complete without some good old fashioned green vegetable that kids love to hate – and it is broccoli that takes the crown when it comes to your teeth. Not only does the high fibre content in broccoli help to reduce inflammation in the mouth, eating it raw also serves to clean and polish the teeth themselves. Recent studies go as far as to show that broccoli actually creates a protective acid-resistant barrier over your teeth – helping to fight decay.
And of course there is more: Broccoli is very rich in vitamin A, from which tooth enamel forms. So not only will it help to clean the teeth and massage the gums, but you’ll be giving your enamel a boost as well.
So far we’ve looked at foods that have a very direct, instantaneous impact on the teeth and gums, but there are plenty of nutrient-rich foods that work to keep them looking healthy over the long run. Salmon is one of these.
The vitamin D found in salmon works to help your body absorb and use the calcium in your body – which is vital to great oral health as it helps strengthen your teeth and gums. But that’s not all, vitamin D has been shown to cut the risk of tooth decay in half.
There’s more good news for your gums too. The Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that foods high in omega-3 oils, such as salmon, can reduce the risk of periodontitis – which damages not only the gums, but the supporting bones around the teeth.
I bet you weren’t expecting this one. But yes, while they may not be good for your breath, onions boast powerful antimicrobial sulphur-rich compounds which are great at reducing the levels of bacteria in the mouth. Recent studies have even show that onions – particularly when eaten raw – can completely eradicate the four main strains of bacteria in the mouth known to cause cavities and gum disease.
As well as being pigment free, meaning they won’t stain your teeth, onions are also packed with all the vitamins and nutrients you need for a healthy smile. Their high vitamin C content helps to protect the minerals in the bones and teeth, and their vitamin B6 content alleviates inflammation. Onions also contain manganese, which helps to hold calcium right where it belongs – in your bones and teeth.
Just one word of advice: Perhaps chew a little parsley or mint to solve the breath issue – or just see it as another excuse to brush your teeth.
Of course diet is always going to have a huge impact on the state of our teeth, but it’s no good eating the right foods if you’re still neglecting to brush and floss on a regular basis. What’s more, as tooth decay occurs when sugary and starchy foods – such as bread, soda, and candy – are left on the teeth, it’s also vital that you avoid the wrong foods as often as possible. So get the balance right. That means a healthy diet, regular brushing and flossing, and check-ups and cleanings twice a year.
Dr. Costa, BDS cum laude, FFD (SA) MFOS, is a maxillo-facial and oral surgeon. He owns and operates SameDay Dental Implants in Dubai Healthcare City, which is the only clinic in the Middle East that performs same day dental implant procedures.