8 Foods to Eat for Healthy Teeth
We all know the basics of taking care of our teeth: brush at least twice a day, floss daily and make regular visits to the dentist. But an important part of having healthy teeth is the food we eat. Certain foods may help prevent common dental problems, such as cavities and periodontal disease, while other foods may contribute to such problems. Here are the ones that are good for you.
Nuts and seeds contain a multitude of micronutrients that are good for your teeth, including phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, zinc and calcium. Brazil nuts and almonds have the highest calcium content. A half-cup of almonds contains 183 milligrams of calcium—18 percent of the recommended daily value. One tablespoon of sesame seeds contains 88 milligrams.
Citrus fruits are good for dental health because of their vitamin C content. Vitamin C helps reduce inflammation, which may play a role in preventing gingivitis. It can also help keep gums healthy by strengthening blood vessels. Try oranges, tangerines, clementines, grapefruit, lemons and limes. More is not better in this case, however, as too much acid can be harmful to teeth.
Dairy products such as cheese, milk and plain yogurt contain calcium, which not only helps maintain healthy teeth, but also helps rebuild tooth enamel and protects teeth from acids that cause tooth decay. Dairy products also contain vitamin D, which functions to maintain proper levels of calcium in the body. Non-dairy sources of vitamin D include soymilk and vitamin D-fortified cereals.
Fatty fish are also great sources of vitamin D, particularly wild salmon (fresh or canned), Atlantic mackerel, sardines and herring. The combination of foods that contain vitamin D and calcium may help protect your teeth and gums from disease. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings (about 3.5 oz. cooked) of fish per week.
Shiitake mushrooms contain a sugar called lentinan, which prevents growth of mouth bacteria and tooth plaque. Research has also shown that shiitakes can re-mineralize teeth and discourage harmful acids. If you’ve never cooked with shiitake mushrooms, try adding them to soups, pasta, rice dishes, sauces or stir-fry.
Although onions can give you bad breath, they may be good for your overall dental health. Onions include sulfur-containing compounds that help fight different types of bacteria known to cause cavities and periodontal disease. If you’re concerned about bad breath, try chewing on parsley or mint as a natural breath freshener.
Celery acts almost like a natural toothbrush, as chewing on its fibrous consistency can help remove food particles and clean your teeth and gums. Crisp vegetables with fiber like celery also help stimulate saliva flow, which is a natural defense against cavities. Eating raw carrots and broccoli can produce similar benefits.
Chicken contains calcium and phosphorous, which are needed to re-mineralize teeth--the natural process by which minerals are re-deposited in tooth enamel after being removed by acids. Chicken also contains fluoride, which can protect your teeth from harmful acids. It also has vitamin B3, which can help prevent bad breath and canker sores in the mouth.