If you are what you eat, that’s even truer for your teeth and gums. When you drink and eat starchy or sugary foods, you’re not only feeding yourself.
You’re also feeding the germs (bacteria) that can reason tooth decay and gum disease in your mouth. Plaque is a thin, invisible, sticky film of sticky bacteria and other materials. It covers all the surfaces of all your teeth. When sugars or starches in your mouth come in contact with plaque, acids form.
The good guys
Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables– Foods with fiber help keep your teeth and gums clean. They also get saliva flowing. Next to good home dental care, this is your best natural defense against cavities and gum disease.
Cheese, milk, plain yogurt, and other dairy products– Cheese is another saliva maker. The calcium in cheese, and the calcium and phosphates in milk and other dairy products, help put back minerals your teeth might have lost due to other foods. They also help rebuild tooth enamel.
Green and black teas– Both contain polyphenols that interact with plaque bacteria. These substances either kill or hold back bacteria. This prevents bacteria from growing or making acid that attacks teeth. Depending on the type of water you use to brew your tea, a cup of tea can also be a source of fluoride.
Sugarless chewing gum- This is another great saliva maker that removes food particles from your mouth.
The bad guys
Starchy foods that can get stuck in your mouth– Soft bread and potato chips, for instance, can get trapped between your teeth.
Carbonated soft drinks– These drinks are the leading source of added sugar among kids and teens. They are loaded with sugar. And most soft drinks have phosphoric and citric acids that wear away tooth enamel.
Substances that dry out your mouth- These include alcohol and many medicines. If medicines are the reason, talk with your dental care provider about getting a fluoride rinse or a fluoride gel for brushing your teeth.
Eat for a healthy mouth
The ADA offers these tips to help reduce tooth-decay risk from the foods you eat:
- Brush your teeth twice a day.
- Floss once a day.
- Eat sugary foods with meals. Your mouth makes more saliva during meals. This helps to decrease the effect of acid production and to rinse pieces of food from the mouth.
- Limit between-meal snacks. If you crave a snack, choose something nutritious. Think about chewing sugarless gum afterward to increase saliva flow and wash out food and acid.
- Drink more water. Fluoridated water can help prevent tooth decay. If you choose bottled water, check the label for the fluoride content.