The Tooth-Friendly Diet

What you eat, and how you eat it, is one of the most important factors in caring for your teeth.  By eating food that is good for your teeth, you ensure that your teeth are getting all the nutrients they need to be healthy.  When you eat foods that are harmful to your teeth, you increase your risk for decay and tooth loss.

Several factors make up a tooth-friendly diet:

Calcium and Vitamin C.  Your teeth and jaws need calcium to be strong and healthy, and your body needs calcium to function properly.  If you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, your body will absorb it any way it can.  This means that calcium will be removed from existing bones, like your jaw.  When your jaw loses calcium it becomes weaker and not able to hold your teeth securely.

A tooth friendly diet includes getting at least 1000 mg of calcium daily from food, or from calcium supplements.   Pregnant women and women over 50 need more calcium, up to 1,500 mgs daily. Calcium is found in milk, cheese, yogurt, salmon, kale, broccoli and sardines with bones.   Two to four servings a day will usually meet the US RDA for calcium.

Vitamin C.  Vitamin C keeps your gums healthy by helping them  fight off any infection or injury.  You may unknowingly have an early form of gingivitis.  Plenty of Vitamin C in your diet helps your gums resist any infection, and allows you to heal quickly after oral surgery or other injury.  The US RDA for Vitamin C varies with age.  Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries and cantaloupe.

Crunchy fruit and vegetables. — Eating crisp fruits and vegetables like apples and celery keeps your teeth healthy by scrubbing plaque and food particles from your teeth.  Chewing crisp fruits and vegetables also causes your mouth to produce more saliva, which neutralizes bacteria.

Black tea.  Black tea is the type of tea that you are most familiar with.  It’s used to make iced tea, and has very different properties from white or green tea.   Black tea contains chemicals which can destroy cavity-causing bacteria.

Water.  Water is tooth-friendly because it helps to wash away food particles.  It also helps to keep your mouth moist if you have diminished saliva production.

Danger!  Candy of all types.  Bacteria love sugar as much as humans do.  A diet high in sugar encourages bacteria growth and plaque formation.  Gummies and hard candy stick to your teeth and are difficult to remove.  Regular soda is dangerous because of the high sugar content and the acid it contains.  If you must drink a regular soda, then drink it quickly.  Prolonged sipping exposes your teeth to sugar and acid for a longer time.

Peanut butter contains a high level of sugar and sticks to your teeth.  Raisins and other dried fruit can be harmful because they are difficult to remove from the surface of your teeth.  Potato chips, popcorn, crackers and snack bars are also harmful for this reason.

Totally abstaining from harmful foods is not a realistic expectation.  If you decide to eat a candy bar, pound cake, or potato chips, be sure to brush, floss and rinse afterward.