You already know the value of regular tooth brushing and flossing to the prevention of tooth decay and gum disease, but what you eat can help too. Here are a few tips for healthy teeth involving simple foods that may be more helpful to your dental health than you thought they were.
An Element of Strength
The mineral, fluoride, plays an important role in building strong teeth and bones, and ultimately protecting your teeth against tooth decay. This is why fluoride has been included in toothpastes like Colgate® Cavity Protection and many community water supplies. But did you know it's also found naturally in many foods? Any fluoride you ingest is absorbed and distributed throughout the body, according to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), though most of it deposited into your bones and teeth.
So, to give you and your family's teeth an extra bit of strength now and then, serve up foods with naturally high concentrations of fluoride. Most seafood is a good source of this because oceans are full of natural sodium fluoride. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), tea and gelatin contain fluoride as well. Carrots, beets, canned pork and beans also have significant amounts (who would've thought?), as well as infant formula, juices, canned tomato products and cheeses. And if you like baked potatoes, don't peel off the skin; that's where most of the fluoride is found. You can identify more fluoride-rich foods at the USDA National Nutrient Database.
'Moo're Dairy Please
It's common knowledge that calcium in dairy products is necessary for strong bones and teeth, but the AGD suggests cheese may help protect your teeth against decay, specifically. Cheese raises the pH level in your mouth – which means fewer acids that cause cavities – and because cheese stimulates saliva flow, you actually dilute the remaining acids in your mouth. In addition, certain compounds found in cheese can adhere to your teeth, protecting them from future acids. Therefore, if you're looking to give your kids healthy snacks, keep the milk coming. Cheese and other dairy products are perfect substitutes for sugary drinks and foods.
Swish and Swallow
Water is a great cleanser. We use it to bathe and wash our clothes, dishes and cars, so don't underestimate its value to cleaning food particles and acids off of your teeth. Your swish-and-swallow technique is especially helpful for kids at school, or whenever brushing teeth is otherwise inconvenient. In addition, sipping plenty of water helps people with dry mouth keep their mouth moist to prevent the bacteria that leads to decay, gum disease and bad breath.
Candy and Chewing Gum
Yes, recommending sugary foods to keep your teeth healthy does sound crazy, but as Dr. Cayouette from the AGD reports, xylitol – a natural sugar used to sweeten lemonade mixes, candies, mints and some chewing gum – can actually help prevent tooth decay. Xylitol doesn't break down in the mouth to form acids like regular sugar, and for the best cavity protection, you should have about three to five servings of xylitol throughout the day. Another benefit of chewing sugar-free gum or candies is that they stimulate saliva, which, like cheese, helps cleanse your teeth of food debris and bacteria.
Although xylitol is perfectly safe for humans, even small amounts can have adverse effects in dogs. If you have a hungry hound, be careful where you store your healthy treats.
An apple, sometimes called "nature's toothbrush," can help clean your teeth after eating sugary and sticky foods, but vegetables like celery and carrots can do the job, too. Fresh fruits and veggies are great alternatives to sugary snacks, so keep the fridge stocked with lots of options.
Keeping your family on track with a healthy diet isn't always easy. By implementing these easy-to-do food tips for healthy teeth, and maintaining good oral hygiene routines at the same time, your family will be well on its way to a lifetime of bodily health.