August 09, 2016
It goes without saying that basic dental hygiene is the cornerstone of maintaining a picture-perfect smile. This includes daily brushing, flossing, and regular checkups. If you’re doing those three things, you’re on the right track. But that’s not enough. The food and drinks you consume also play a huge role in whether or not you’ll show up at the dentist’s office with a mouthful of cavities. There are certain foods that are cavity-creators, and other foods that can help you fight decay.
Carbonated soft drinks: Everyone knows that soda contains tons of sugar, which is a main culprit of decay. But the carbonation in soda, as well as the phosphorus that most soft drinks contain, can also be enemies of your teeth’s enamel, contributing to its breakdown and the subsequent development of cavities.
Fruit juices: While important for your health, fruit juices have the double-whammy of often being high in sugar and, in the case of citrus juices, being relatively acidic. Add to this the fact that many bottled fruit juices have added sugar as well, and you have a mandate for moderation.
Sugary candies: The best advice we can give you? Stop eating sugary candy entirely. Particularly the kinds that stay in your mouth for a period of time, like hard-candy drops, lollipops or “suckers.” You’re essentially bathing your teeth in sugar with these foods, so make them a once-in-a-while treat if you must indulge -- or stick to candy treats that leave your mouth quickly, like chocolate drops.
Acidic foods: “Healthy” fruits and vegetables like lemons, limes and tomatoes are nutritious and enjoyable. Just remember they’re acidic, and acid can eat away at your teeth’s enamel. No need to put a ban on these foods, just remember to brush afterward.
Dairy: Low-fat milk, yogurt and cheeses are terrific sources of calcium, which is a key factor in healthy teeth.
Leafy greens: Bok choy, broccoli and similar dark-green vegetables are also high in calcium.
Fiber: Not only are they good for digestion and colon health, high-fiber foods stimulate saliva production and flow, which is the body’s natural defense against tooth decay. Enjoy dried fruits (dates, raisins, figs) and non-acidic fresh fruits (bananas, apples) often.
Whole grains: Vitamin B, an essential element of whole grains, is crucial to healthy gums, as is the magnesium that grains contain. Rather than choosing white rice, for example – which is high in sugar – choose brown rice and whole grain pastas.
Sugarless gum: Many dentists say that chewing sugar-free gum after a meal helps rinse acid off your teeth. The artificial sweetener xylitol, used in gum, may have decay-preventive qualities.
Tap water: Water straight from the tap is great if you live in a community with fluoridated water. There’s nothing better for preventing cavities than fluoride – check your city or town’s municipal website if you’re not sure whether your local tap water is fluoridated.
Straws: If you must indulge in sugary liquids, consider using a straw, which can keep you from bathing your teeth in sugar as you sip.
Again, none of these food-related tips is a substitute for good old-fashioned dental hygiene and professional care – but every little thing you can do to battle the onset of cavities helps. While dental professionals are constantly working on new ways to prevent cavities, the responsibility starts with you. Opting for cavity-preventing foods and steering clear of cavity-causing ones just makes good sense.