Brush, floss, rinse…the basics of dental hygiene are obvious, right? When dentists give you a gentle reminder, you already know where you have been slacking off. But a little extra time flossing may not be the only way to improve the condition of your teeth. Health research is uncovering an entirely different field of dental care, one closely connected with what you eat. Now, health administration programs focus on nutrition and correlate diet with tooth decay.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? Your teeth spend a lot of time in contact with your food, and like all other parts of your body, they are influenced by your intake of nutrients. Even the old wisdom that sweets are bad for your teeth hints at the connection. Scientists have taken the logic a step further and researched what diet choices are best for your teeth, and which can mean a lot of time in the the dentist chair.
On the Danger List
Chief on the list of foods to avoid is acid. While you may not think of yourself as the type to munch down on pure acid, acid-causing foods are actually a very common part of the American diet. This doesn’t mean that the foods themselves are especially acidic, although if you like to snack on lemons you may have a problem. The primary issue is the bacteria that likes to munch on the sugars that you eat or drink. The more sugar, the more you encounter problems with acid, which wears away the enamel on your teeth. Even a single sugary or starchy snack can lead to tooth damage that endures for more than 20 minutes. The damage may be slight, but it builds up over time and can eventually lead to expensive dental bills.
Avoiding processed snack foods is a start, but natural sugars are also abundant in fruits, milk, all types of grains, and some vegetables. This makes it difficult to avoid sugars and acidic attacks on your teeth all the time. It is better to clean your teeth after meals and cut down on between-meal snacks. However, carbonated drinks, alcohol, dried fruits and citrusy fruits should all be avoided if you want maximum dental health. Of course, practical concerns may steer you toward a balanced acid intake.
Tooth Care With Every Bite
A number of foods have proven effective at encouraging dental health. Nuts like almonds and peanuts, for example, are rich in nutrients and minerals that can help your teeth stay strong. Your mouth needs water to create saliva, so being adequately hydrated is also key to long-term tooth health. And while milk can cause problems with acid, unsweetened (no ice cream) dairy products are rich in calcium, phosphates, and other nutrients that your teeth can use to repair damage.
Foods with lots of fiber can act a little like a toothbrush, scrubbing away more dangerous sugars as you chew. Fresh fruit can be very healthy if you take care of your teeth afterwards. Sugar-free gum can also help clean your teeth after meals. If you drink tea, consider finishing up with a green or black tea. Both have been shown to kill bacteria that create plaque. Coffee helps too, but may stain your teeth more easily.
As research progresses in this new area of preventative dental care, plans will be developed that take into consideration the average diet and propose solutions for how to improve it. In the meantime, consumers should simply take these findings into consideration, and make small changes to incorporate hygienic suggestions.