Your diet directly affects your oral health. Eating foods rich in calcium, iron and B vitamins will help your teeth stay strong and keep your gums healthy. Avoiding sticky, sugary foods, sports drinks and soda are all easy ways to help prevent tooth decay.
What are the nutrients that teeth need to stay strong, and which foods contain those nutrients?
Dr. John Vitale: Well, the nutrients are calcium and iron and vitamin B3, vitamin B12, vitamin C and vitamin D. They’re generally found in foods like cheeses and dairy foods, including cheeses that are rich in tooth and bone fortifying calcium, leafy greens, wild salmon, green tea, carrot sticks. These are all good for your teeth and gums.
What happens to your teeth and gums if you don’t eat foods rich in these nutrients?
Dr. John Vitale: Well, two things. Number one, you lessen the strength of the enamel in your teeth, causing the onset of decay more rapidly, and because of the vitamin deficiencies and what have you, by not eating foods that are rich in these vitamins, you end up with bleeding gums and plaque formation and, things that are not good to your periodontium.
Which foods and drinks can actually damage teeth, and how does the damage take place?
Dr. John Vitale: Well, the foods that damage your teeth are like lollipops for instance, because of the sugar in them. Ice. People tend to bite on ice. They think it’s good for them because it’s water, but actually what happens is you weaken the enamel of the teeth. You cause stress fractures in the enamel, and subsequently you can get broken teeth as a result of it. You have to watch your citrus intake. Too much citrus causes a wearing down of the enamel of the teeth and eats it away because it’s got an acid in it. Sometimes coffee, depends on the type of coffee, very acidic ones. Sticky foods are not good for you. That’s your mouth’s worst nightmare, because they actually stick to your teeth, and they cause bacteria to form and subsequently decay. There are a lot of things. Things that go crunch in your mouth like potato chips, because they also stick to your teeth. Sodas are no good for you because of the amount of sugar that’s in them. Generally, sports drinks are no good for you in excess. You should swap those things out with water, and too much alcohol consumption also, because what that does is it causes dehydration in your mouth and subsequently gum disease.
Now for the gums, for healthy gums, which foods can keep gums healthy and lower the risk of gum disease?
Dr. John Vitale: Onions are good for your gums. Leafy greens are good for your gums. Green tea, peppers and citrus. Some citrus fruits in moderation. Shiitake mushrooms, carrots, celery, apples, fibrous fruits, milk, yogurt and cheese. These are all things that provide minerals and vitamins that are necessary for healthy gums and teeth.
Should people be brushing their teeth after every meal?
Dr. John Vitale: Well, in reality, yes. After breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it’s really great to brush your teeth. In the real world, sometimes it’s a little more difficult, but at least after breakfast and after dinner, and if you can get some mouthwash in between, that would also be great.
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