What you eat doesn’t just impact your overall physical health, but also has a major influence on the health of your teeth and gums. While certain foods can contribute to tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral issues, incorporating other diet choices can actually help promote strong teeth and fresh breath. Being mindful of your dietary choices is an important part of a complete oral care routine.

The Worst Culprits for Dental Health

There are a few main types of foods and beverages that are particularly detrimental when it comes to oral health:

Sugary Foods and Drinks

It’s no surprise that foods high in sugar like candy, cookies, cakes, and sugary drinks like soda are bad for your teeth. The bacteria in your mouth feast on these sugars, producing acids that wear away tooth enamel and cause cavities and decay over time.

While not bad when eaten in a limited capacity, we encourage all of our dental patients to limit overconsumption of sweets and sodas to help ensure a healthy smile.

Sticky/Gummy Foods

Sticky snacks like gummies, taffy, caramel, and dried fruits have a tendency to get stuck in the crevices of your teeth. This exposes tooth surfaces to sugar for longer periods, increasing acid attack and potential bacteria buildup that contributes to cavities and gum disease.

Starchy Refined Carbs

Starches like chips, crackers, breads, and pastries tend to get broken down into sugars by saliva. These refined carbohydrates can then linger in your mouth, being broken down further into cavity-causing acids.

Citrus Fruits/Juices

While vitamin C is essential for health, frequent consumption of acidic foods like oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes can erode tooth enamel over time. The acids in these fruits and juices essentially work to dissolve minerals in tooth surfaces.

Promoting Dental Wellness Through Diet

On the flip side, there are many foods that can actually benefit your dental health:

Crunchy Fruits and Veggies

Crispy fresh produce like apples, carrots, celery, and cucumbers help increase saliva production, which can rinse away food particles and neutralize acid. Their crunchiness also helps scrub away plaque and bacteria from teeth.

Dairy Products

Cheese, milk, and yogurt are excellent sources of calcium and phosphates that can help remineralize tooth enamel and protect against erosion and decay. The proteins in dairy also buffer against acid attacks.

Green and Black Tea

Unsweetened green and black teas contain polyphenol compounds that can disrupt plaque bacteria growth and limit acid production. The teas also have deodorizing properties that promote fresh breath. Just be sure to consume these in a moderate capacity as they can also discolor your teeth over time.

Sugarless Gum

Chewing sugarless gum promotes saliva production, which helps wash away acids, food particles, and bacteria lingering after meals. Look for gums containing xylitol, as this sweetener can actively inhibit bacterial growth.

Tap Water

Regularly consuming tap water can help due to the fluoride added to most municipal water supplies. Fluoride absorbs into and strengthens enamel, protecting against decay-causing acids.

Nuts and Seeds

These crunchy snacks are packed with important nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D that support dental health. The protein and healthy fats also promote saliva production.

Tips for a Smile-Friendly Diet

To maximize the dental benefits of your dietary choices:

  • Drink plenty of water and milk rather than sugary or acidic beverages
  • Eat fresh produce, dairy, and nuts as snacks rather than processed/packaged foods
  • Use straws for juices and acidic drinks to minimize contact with teeth
  • Rinse with water after consuming sugary or acidic foods and drinks
  • Brush or chew gum shortly after eating foods that cling to teeth
  • While an optimal dental hygiene routine of brushing, flossing, and regular professional cleanings is essential, being selective about your food and beverage intake is another key factor for avoiding cavities, enamel erosion, gum disease, and other dental issues. Making smart choices that limit sugary, sticky, starchy, and acidic options while incorporating more dental-friendly alternatives like crunchy veggies, dairy, nuts, and tea can help you maintain a bright, healthy smile for years to come.