Healthy Teeth from Healthy Eating

healthy teeth

Healthy teeth and healthy eating have a direct relationship. Yes, what you eat matters!  Learn how your diet impacts your smile and what you can do to help fortify your teeth from the inside out. Eating a balanced diet is important for your overall health as well as the health of your teeth. Certain food choices greatly impact the strength, color, appearance, and health of your gums and mouth.  Regardless of your age, there are foods that supply essential vitamins and minerals that contribute to the stability and chemistry of your teeth. Educate yourself on how you can eat for a better smile today and tomorrow. Our Fort Collins dental team can help answer any questions you may have on nutrition and your teeth during one of your visits with us.


Healthy Teeth Food Choices

Healthy teeth start with healthy food choices. Here are some teeth-friendly foods to add to your pantry shelves:

  • Dairy: Aged cheeses are best to aid in saliva production. (Saliva can help to rid your teeth of decay-causing food particles.)  Milk, and plain yogurt are also great choices.
  • Protein: Calcium-fortified tofu and almonds can promote good teeth health due to their high calcium properties and other nutrients.  Other great options for protein: meat, poultry, fish, milk and eggs. These foods are also high in phosphorus. Both calcium and phosphorus rebuild and protect your tooth enamel and are vital to your dental health.
  • Water: Helps to wash decay-promoting particles from your teeth. Water is a great choice for hydration because it is sugar-free and helps in the digestion process.  
  • Fruits and Vegetables: Reach for fruits and vegetables as a snack instead of carbohydrates. Fruits and Vegetables that contain a high volume of water–such as pears, melons, celery, and cucumber–are best. Foods high in water help balance ingested sugars and help to clean the teeth.  Many fruits and vegetables also contain vitamin C (important for healthy gums and quick healing of wounds) and vitamin A (another key nutrient in building tooth enamel).  Fruits like bananas and raisins are comprised of lots concentrated sugar so make sure you brush your teeth soon after you eat these fruits. Leafy greens are great sources of calcium too.  


Foods to Skip

Just as there are foods that can help you establish and maintain healthy teeth, there also many foods that do the opposite.  While cookies, candies, soda and other sugary foods may be obvious saboteurs, watch out for foods high in carbohydrates and starches as well. Starches and sugars from pretzels, breads and potato chips can cause tooth decay just as quickly as candy. The biggest factor to how your teeth will fare against the foods you eat depends on the amount of time that passes between eating and brushing your teeth.  If you are going to indulge in sugary foods, make sure and brush your teeth soon after.  The following list of foods can wreak havoc on your teeth so watch out:

  • Sticky foods:  Sticky foods adhere to teeth more and are harder to get off. The plaque acids that they produce continue to harm teeth long after you stop eating them. Watch out for dried fruit! (Reach for fresh fruit instead. ) Raisins, dried figs, granola bars, peanut butter, jelly beans, caramel, honey, molasses, and syrup are among some of the popular foods that adhere to your teeth. Rinse your mouth with water and brush and floss carefully immediately after partaking of these types of foods.
  • Citrus foods: Avoid too much of these.  Their acidic nature can erode the enamel of your teeth. Eat them as part of a meal, not by themselves to help wash away their acidic properties.
  • Hard candies: Not only can these sweets break your teeth, they are full of sugars bacteria love to feed on.
  • Ice: Ice is great for cooling off a drink, just don’t chew it! This habit can also break your teeth.
  • Coffee: Caffeinated coffee and tea can dry out your mouth allowing bacteria to stick your teeth and promote decay. Sugar is often added to sweeten coffee which can also lead to tooth decay.  Frequent coffee and tea can stain your teeth dimming your once brilliant smile.
  • Crunchy foods: These foods also can break your teeth or get stuck in the crevices between your teeth.
  • Soda:  Reach for water! Not only are carbonated drinks more acidic, they are also commonly full of sugar.  
  • Sports drinks: While sports drinks can help provide you with necessary hydration and energy during exercise, they are often packed with sugar. Make sure to limit the quantities you consume so you don’t exceed your daily sugar intake.
  • Alcohol: Causes dehydration and dry mouth which can cause decreased saliva flow over time.  Less saliva means your mouth is more prone to tooth decay or gum disease. Heavy alcohol use can also increase your risk for mouth cancer.


Sugar Substitutes

Think sugar substitutes are the way to go? Think again. Sugar substitutes (Splenda, Equal and Sunett, aspartame, erythritol, saccharin, sucralose, isomalt, sorbitol, acesulfame potassium and mannitol) have the appearance and taste of sugar but they don’t promote decay-causing acids in your mouth that erode your teeth. But, don’t go overboard there.  It is still better to put natural sugars in your body–like from fruits, milk and some vegetables–than to turn to other options.


Not All Sugars Are Bad

An important thing to keep in mind when making food choices that not ALL sugars are bad.  Your body needs some sugars to operate correctly. “We actually need sugar; it’s our body’s preferred fuel,” says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. The trick is to make sure you don’t ingest more than you should. Natural occurring sugars found in fruits, some vegetables, and milk are perfectly healthy. It’s ADDED sugar (sweeteners put in during processing and prep) that we need to moderate.Your body DOES need carbohydrates, which are broken down into sugar in your body. This sugar is essential for your body to create energy to survive. But, it is not necessary to include sugary foods or added sugars in the diet in order for your body to produce energy.


How Much Sugar is Safe?

In November 2015, the Food and Drug Administration recommended people over the age of 3 eat no more than 50 grams of sugar a day and it should make up no more than 10 percent of your daily calories. Monitor the amount of sugars you are consuming by making a habit of reading food labels.  Ingredients on food labels are listed according to amount so if sugar is high on the list, beware.  Since bacteria in your mouth feeds off of carbohydrates, reducing sugar and other sources of simple carbohydrates–that are easily fermentable–can help reduce cavities.


Call for a Healthy Teeth Consultation

If you would like to know more about healthy teeth, nutrition and what you can do to preserve your smile, or if you would like to make an appointment, call our Fort Collins office today at (970) 223-8425. You can also reach us after office hours by submitting a contact or appointment request online using the form below.