What you eat and how often you eat play an important role in the health of your teeth and preventing cavities. Research shows that children who have healthy dietary practices are 44 percent less likely to exhibit severe dental caries in early childhood compared to children with poor diets. For adults, a healthy diet can protect tooth enamel and result in fewer trips to the dentist.
The moment you place food in your mouth, bacteria in the mouth turns sugars and carbohydrates from food into acids. These acids erode the enamel on teeth, starting the decay process. The more often you eat, the more you are exposing your teeth to the cycle of decay. To promote mouth and tooth health, pay attention to the types of foods you’re eating.
Worst Foods for Teeth
Hard candies and mints, fruit “chews,” dried fruit bits (except raisins), cookies, pretzels, and potato chips all have high sugar content that bacteria feeds on. Soda, sports drinks, sweetened coffee and tea contribute to the breakdown of enamel. Sugar-substitutes such as Splenda and aspartame don’t react on teeth the same way as natural sugar, but these artificial sweeteners aren’t a healthy staple for anyone’s diet. Read food labels: Sugar-free does not always mean a food does not contain sugar; it may mean additional sugar has not been added. Many sugar-free products contain fructose, sucrose, maple or rice syrup, which can be just as bad for teeth.
Best Foods for Teeth
Cheese, chicken and lean meats, nuts, plain yogurt, and milk all contain calcium and phosphorous, two nutrients thought to protect tooth enamel and to remineralize teeth. Other great food choices include leafy greens, fish, and eggs.
Hard, crunchy fruits and vegetables, such as apples, pears, carrots, and broccoli all have a high water content that stimulates saliva and helps wash away food particles and acid. However, citrus fruits and tomatoes are more acidic and should be eaten with other foods (e.g., a turkey and cheese sandwich with tomato slices; orange slices with a few almonds). When it comes to beverages, your best choice is water followed by milk and unsweetened tea. And about those raisins … the sweet, bite-sized raisin does not contain sucrose (table sugar), plus it is rich in phytochemicals that, in some studies, have been shown to affect the growth of bacteria associated with gum disease.
American Dental Association. “Good Foods for Dental Health.” Accessed March 2015.
Nunn, M.E., N.S. Braunstein, et.al. “Healthy Eating Index Is a Predictor of Early Childhood Caries.” Abstract. Journal of Dental Research 88, no. 4 (April 2009): 361-6.
Science Daily. “Raisins as a Functional Food for Oral Health.” June 13, 2005.