Healthy Eating for Healthy Teeth

Written by Dr Max Fertman

We’ve all heard at some stage of our life that we should reduce sugary foods and soft drinks in our diet if we want to help avoid getting holes in our teeth (decay) and keep them healthy for as long as possible, but are there any foods that are helpful for our teeth?

Well interestingly enough there are some foods that can have a beneficial effect on the teeth, gums and our overall oral health and they’re not too different to foods that are good for overall health.

Firstly, and possibly most obvious in terms of benefits to the teeth are the dairy products – especially cheese. Finishing a meal with a cube of cheese or even just as a snack can help remineralise teeth by providing a source of calcium, clearing food stuck in the chewing surface of teeth and stimulating saliva flow which will help prevent decay. Yoghurt and milk will have similar remineralising effects for teeth, as they are also sources of calcium, phosphorus and casein however they will not stimulate the protective and acid neutralizing effects of increased saliva flow as chewing on a harder block of cheese.

Other foods that are helpful for our teeth are the usual suspects that our mums always told us eat (namely vegetables such as carrots, celery, lettuce, kale, asparagus and spinach). Besides containing important vitamins and minerals for our general health, these veggies contain phosphorus and calcium, which provide benefits for our teeth. Some of the crunchier items on the list such as carrots, have the added benefit of stimulating the gums and helping to keep them strong and healthy. Stimulated saliva flow from chewing on the fibrous, crunchy veggies listed above will also enhance remineralisation of teeth.

Now that we’ve got the more obvious (and arguably boring) helpful foods for our teeth covered we can focus on some of the sweeter and more exciting food choices.

The old adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” may not necessarily ring true for dentists but even so apples can have benefits for your teeth. Apples are a very fibrous fruit which will stimulate saliva, stimulate the gums and help with oral clearance (basically rinsing away food, bacteria and debris from the mouth). Almonds also get an honorable mention as they are a great source of calcium and stimulates saliva. There are studies that suggest a link between polyphenols found in natural cranberries (not the sugary sweetened cranberry juice) and tea and a reduced incidence of dental decay and periodontal disease.

Finally, citrus fruits play an important role in maintain good gum and periodontal health for their Vitamin C content, which helps proper collagen formation in the gums and around the body. Historically, many sailors would suffer from scurvy – a condition resulting from a deficiency in Vitamin C and quite easily treated by increasing intake through citrus fruits, thankfully this condition is rare today.

Whilst not technically a food, we can’t forget the importance of staying well hydrated by drinking lots of water throughout the day. Water has numerous benefits mainly through aiding with the formation of saliva and aiding oral clearance Current Australian guideline recommendations for total water intake (from food and fluids) are 3.4L/day for men and 2.8L/day for women.

To learn more about making healthy food choices for your dental health, make an appointment with one of our friendly dentists.