It's well known that sugary treats, sticky snacks and syrup-laden sodas are bad news for your teeth. But did you know there are some foods that prevent tooth decay? Certain foods either help restore weakened enamel or contain nutrients like protein that can help strengthen it before it wears away. Some foods are better than others when it comes to fighting decay, but for the sake of your teeth, make sure your diet contains some of the following:
1. Crunchy Vegetables and Fruits
An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but that includes your dentist. Crunchy fruits and veggies are just some of the foods that prevent tooth decay, due to a high fiber content that stimulates the flow of saliva throughout your mouth. Therefore, slices of carrot, celery or apple go perfectly with an otherwise rich main course to help give your teeth a good cleaning.
The saliva you produce when you eat crunchy veggies, in particular, rinses any remaining sugar away from your teeth before it has a chance to attack healthy tooth enamel. Even though some fruits, like apples, are high in sugar, the amount of fiber and water in them is high enough to balance the sugar's effects and do your mouth more good than harm, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).
2. Cheese and Dairy
If you look forward to eating cheese, here's some fantastic news: It happens to be phenomenal for your teeth. Cheese doesn't contain much sugar, but it does carry protein and calcium – both of which are important for the strength and health of your enamel. As a bonus, the Journal of General Dentistry recently found eating cheese actively protects the teeth from cavities. Participants in a study who chewed on cheese for three minutes saw their mouths' pH levels increase over the course of 30 minutes. A low pH indicates higher acidity, and usually increases your risk for tooth decay at less than 5.5. Having a higher pH means a lower risk for decay.
Cheese isn't the only dairy product that is good for your teeth, of course. Research published in the Journal of the American Dental Association showed that drinking milk after eating sweets also reduced the amount of plaque buildup on one's teeth. Like its relative in cheese, milk is a classic source of calcium, which can help remineralize the teeth and minimize decay.
Fish, lobsters and shellfish can be great for your teeth, and for two reasons. First, they tend to be an excellent source of lean protein, which can help keep your teeth healthy and strong in general. Secondly, most seafood contains fluoride, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This fluoride can help reduce your risk for tooth decay just like the fluoride incorporated in your tap water.
4. Nuts and Other Sources of Protein
If you aren't a fan of seafood or can't eat it due to an allergy, rest assured there are a variety of foods containing the protein that helps your teeth in much the same way. Nuts contain a good amount of protein, as well as calcium and phosphorous, which help strengthen your teeth's enamel. Because nuts are crunchy, eating a handful of them also stimulates saliva production, which can further reduce your risk for tooth decay. Chicken, eggs and other types of lean meat are great for your teeth thanks to their own protein.
What you eat can definitely help to protect your teeth, but a healthy diet isn't a replacement for a great oral care routine at home. Along with eating tooth-healthy foods, remember to brush twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste such as Colgate Total® Clean Mint, and floss daily. See your dentist twice a year for cleanings and a checkup so any problems get treated before they become a bigger deal than they need to be.