Teeth are important! No wonder most of us take a really good care of them. Brushing, flossing, scraping our tongue, using mouthwash, we do a lot. Our mouth might very well be the part of our body we take the most care of and yet tooth decay and gum disease are still some of the most prevalent diseases in the world. How come? The answer might hide in the fridge!
Surprising or not, the difference between a healthy smile and frequent visits to the dentist might be your diet. Even if you have a perfect oral hygiene routine, it might be hard to keep your teeth healthy, if you don’t watch what you eat.
Too often, we see food as being only the villain when it comes to oral health. After all, it’s sugars and acids from food and drinks that do most of the damage to our teeth. However, there are many types of food that not only don’t harm your teeth as much but can even give a big boost to your oral health.
From preventing cavities and periodontal disease to even freshening your breath and whitening your teeth, the foods on this list can match the claims of the fanciest toothpaste and mouthwashes on the market. Most of them are actually pretty tasty as well, so take out your shopping list and get ready to add some teeth-friendly goodies.
How some foods help your teeth and gums stay healthy
Your teeth and gums are a part of your body, and as every other part, need good nutrition to function properly. Specific nutrients are most beneficial for different parts of your body, so let’s see which are the most crucial elements for healthy teeth and gums. (You can read which are the worst nutrients for your teeth and gums here )
Foods rich in calcium and phosphorous
Tooth enamel is, well, minerals. Different acidic foods and drinks may cause erosion of the enamel, so to make your teeth strong again you need to put some minerals back and try to restore what is lost. The main heroes here are calcium and phosphorous. These elements are the building blocks of enamel and consuming foods rich in them is a necessity if you want to keep your teeth strong and healthy.
* Best sources (calcium) – yogurt, cheese (hard, aged), seafood, milk (low-fat), tofu, almonds
* Best sources (phosphorous) – pumpkin seeds, fish, Brazil nuts, red meat, eggs, tofu, broth
Firm, crunchy foods high in water
Hard, crunchy foods that contain lots of water are great for your teeth more than one way. First, chewing produces more saliva, which is the best natural neutralizer of the bacteria that causes cavities. Second, the texture of these foods also makes them naturally abrasive, so they gently scrub and clean teeth surfaces, removing plaque and food particles. It has to be raw fruits and vegetable though, so this is not an excuse to munch on chips and crackers.
* Best options: celery, apples, cucumbers, carrots
Foods rich in vitamin D
Vitamin D is crucial for your overall health, but it’s really important if you want healthy teeth as well.The main reason is it helps your body to absorb calcium better.
* Best sources: sunlight (You can’t eat sunlight, but it still is the best natural source of Vitamin D), fish, egg yolks, cod liver oil
Foods rich in vitamin C
Vitamin C is powerful! It can strengthen blood vessels and reduce inflammation, which may help your gums stay healthier. Vitamin C is also required for the production of collagen, a key protein that helps you fight periodontal disease. Without Vitamin C, your gums become sensitive and more susceptible to the bacteria causing periodontal disease.
* Best sources: bell peppers, oranges, kiwi, strawberries, broccoli, kale
Foods rich in antioxidants
When it comes to their health benefits, antioxidants have almost celebrity status. How do they help your mouth stay healthy? Antioxidants fight the bacteria that cause inflammation and periodontal disease. They help protect gums and other tissues from cell damage and bacterial infection.
* Best sources: apples, berries, grapes, raisins, nuts, beans
Foods containing probiotics
When it comes to bacteria in your body, there are tons of both good and bad bacteria. Probiotics are some of the best ones. More research is needed here, but there is already some evidence that probiotics may help decrease plaque and promote healthy gums.
Best sources: yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, and other fermented foods
Foods rich in anthocyanins, arginine, and polyphenols
There are many other elements that might be beneficial for oral health. More research is needed, but some of the most promising candidates are anthocyanins (which may prevent the attachment of plaque on the teeth and fight oral cancer), arginine (an important amino acid which may disrupt the formation of plaque and reduce chances of cavities) and polyphenols (which may slow the growth of bacteria leading to plaque, preventing gum disease, cavities and bad breath).
* Best sources (anthocyanins) – berries, grapes, cherries, plums, eggplant
* Best sources (arginine) – meat, soy, nuts
* Best sources (polyphenols) – tea (black and green), berries, flaxseed, cocoa
30 of the best foods for healthy teeth and gums
So far we’ve gone over why your diet is important for your teeth and over some of the basic science behind the connection between oral health and what you eat. What is left is to give you the complete list of some of the best foods for your mouth. So, here it is! (Or you can click here to see The 25 Worst Foods and Drinks for Your Teeth and Gums. )
Do you like cheddar? It’s rich in calcium. In addition, cheese lowers the acid level in your mouth, which plague hates it for. What’s more, chewing on hard cheeses increases saliva production, which washes off some of the bacteria in the mouth. Want to munch on some not-so-goo-for-your-teeth snacks like crackers – add some cheddar and you’ll mitigate the damage. Just remember, hard, aged cheeses are the best options.
Together with water, milk is the best drink when it comes to your teeth. It’s rich in calcium and other important elements. Milk also lowers the acid levels in the mouth, which helps fighting tooth decay.
Your teeth’s superhero! Water helps wash away food particles and keeps your saliva levels high. Saliva is actually your mouth’s best defense against tooth decay because it contains proteins and minerals that naturally fight plaque and if you stay hydrated, you have an unlimited supply of it.
4) Leafy greens (spinach, broccoli, kale)
Super healthy, leafy greens are rich in calcium, folic acid and lots of important vitamins and minerals that your teeth and gums love.
5) Fish (fatty fishes, wild salmon, tuna)
Rich in minerals and important vitamins like Vitamin D, fish are a crucial part of any teeth-friendly diet.
Most meats are great for your oral health. They are packed with some of the most important nutrients mentioned above. Red meat and even organ meats are especially beneficial.
7) Black and Green Tea
Think polyphenols! Polyphenols have been known to reduce bacteria and toxic products of bacteria in the mouth. Tea also tends to be rich in fluoride, which is a well-known necessity for healthy teeth. It’s best if you drink it unsweetened as sugar and even honey could ruin the party.
Nuts are full of health benefits for your teeth. They are packed with tons of important elements like calcium and phosphorus. Especially beneficial are almonds, Brazil nuts, and cashews, which help to fight bacteria that lead to tooth decay.
This one is a no-brainer. Chewing gum boosts saliva production, washing away bacteria and food particles.
10) Cranberries (fresh)
Rich in polyphenols (just like tea), which keeps plaque at bay, thus lowering the risk of cavities. Fresh cranberries are especially effective at disrupting the process of plaque formation.
Most citrus fruits are really acidic, which is not good for your teeth, but oranges are least acidic of all and have all the health benefits that you can expect from fruits.
If you want perfect teeth, you better love strawberries! They are packed with Vitamin C, antioxidants and also malic acid, which could even naturally whiten your teeth.
Yogurt definitely ticks more than one good box for your oral health. It’s packed with calcium and probiotics that protect you against cavities, gum disease, and even bad breath.
Carrots are so tasty and full of tons of the most important minerals and vitamins in your mouth that they deserve a special mention. No wonder Bugs Bunny has perfect teeth.
Will an apple a day keep the dentist away? Probably not, but it will certainly help. It’s packed with key nutrients and vitamins.
The allicin that is contained in garlic has strong antimicrobial properties. So, it helps you fight tooth decay and especially periodontal disease.
Ginger is amazing in many ways. When it comes to oral health it might freshen your breath and inhibit bacteria growth.
18) Whole grains
Consumption of whole grains (oatmeal, brown rice) lowers the risk of gum disease.
Unlike many acidic fruits, raw pears are good at neutralizing acids, which makes them a perfect snack at any time.
Kiwis have one of the highest concentrations of vitamin C.
When eaten raw, onions have powerful antibacterial properties especially against some of the bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease.
22) Shiitake mushrooms
These tasty Asian goodies are plague’s nightmare. They contain lentinan, a natural sugar that disrupts the formation of plaque on your teeth.
Celery is so good for your teeth it’s worth a special mention. It’s in many ways the perfect snack for good oral health and is the closest we have to nature’s floss.
A diet that includes soy may help promote healthy gums.
Sushi just got better for your teeth! There is some evidence wasabi stops bacteria from sticking to your teeth.
26) Sesame seeds
High in calcium and very efficient at scrubbing plaque off your teeth while you chew them.
27) Sweet potatoes
A healthy dose of vitamin A will do lots of good things for your enamel and gums.
This is a surprise entry, as raisins even appear as the bad guys in some places when it comes to their effect on teeth. However, they are a source of phytochemicals like oleanolic, which may kill cavity-causing bacteria. They are also rich in antioxidants.
29) Black coffee
An even more surprise entry! However, a series of recent studies have shown that black coffee could protect your teeth from tooth decay and actually help fight plaque. There of course is a small catch, the coffee needs to be black and unsweetened.
30) Red wine
Wait a second! Haven’t we been told hundreds of times to avoid red wine in order to protect our teeth? Well, yes…and no! According to a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a glass of red wine can have a strong antimicrobial effect against cavities causing bacteria. Cheers to these brave scientists!
Always remember the basics
It feels great to munch on tasty foods, which you know are great for your oral health. However, don’t forget what your dentist has taught you. Even after the healthiest entries of this list, it’s always a good idea to clean your teeth in some way from the remaining food particles, sugars, and acids. Brushing, of course, should be your top choice, but if it’s not an option at the moment, you can get a gum or at least drink some water.