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It’s a brand new year, and many of us are thinking about eating healthy after a little bit of indulgence over the holidays. There are tons of excellent reasons to make positive changes in your diet, and oral health should be at the top of the list! Here are some of the best and worst foods for dental health, according to the experts:
What Are The Best Foods For Your Teeth?
The American Dental Association has put together a great list of top foods for your teeth, and we agree. Here’s why:
- Water: Good old H2O is a superstar. It rinses teeth every time you drink and helps wash away food particles caught between teeth. The ADA recommends fluoridated tap water rather than bottled water to help strengthen enamel.
- Dairy: Dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt are high in calcium that helps strengthen teeth. If you don’t do dairy, some great options for calcium are soy (including tofu and soymilk), beans, almonds and some fish.
- Fruits and vegetables: These high-fiber, water-rich foods actually clean your teeth while you’re eating them. They’re also full of nutrients that are important for healthy teeth and gums, and many dark green veggies also contain calcium as an added bonus!
- Lean proteins like meat, fish and poultry contain phosphorus, an important mineral that helps your teeth stay strong.
- Nuts: This one surprises some of our clients. Nuts are low carb, high fiber and packed with protein. They’re also full of mouth-healthy minerals and are a great substitute for starchy snacks.
What Are The Worst Foods For Your Teeth?
We’re all allowed to have a treat every now and then, and it’s okay to indulge a little during the holidays. But as you make plans to get back on the oral hygiene wagon in the new year, here are a few foods to limit or avoid, according to the ADA:
- Hard candy: It’s full of sugar and can also cause chipped or broken teeth. So plan to get rid of those leftover candy canes! If you need a treat, dark chocolate is a better alternative.
- Ice: This one sometimes surprises folks because there’s no sugar involved. But chewing ice is super tough on your teeth. Water in its liquid form is the best, but keep it in the glass once it’s frozen!
- Too much citrus: While vitamin C is great for gum health, overdoing citrus can be hard on the enamel as high concentrations of acid hit your teeth. If you love citrus, stick with whole fruits rather than lots of juice.
- Too much coffee: We all know that coffee has health benefits, but many of us load up on sugar in our coffee drinks, especially when we’re at our favorite coffee shop. Caffeine can also cause dry mouth, so limit your coffee to a cup or two a day.
- Sticky foods: Sticky foods like gummy candies and even dried fruits tend to stay on the teeth longer than other foods. And sticky often goes hand in hand with sugar, so it’s especially important to brush and floss after eating sticky treats.
- Starchy snacks: Starchy snacks like potato chips tend to leave a coating between teeth so be sure to drink lots of water and floss after eating.
- Alcohol: There’s nothing wrong with a few festive cocktails over the holidays, but too much alcohol can cause dry mouth and is linked to gum disease in the longer term. Overuse of alcohol is also linked to mouth cancer, so make a resolution to limit alcohol consumption in the new year.
- Soda: You probably knew we were going there! Drinking too much soda means routinely running a sugar bath over the teeth. Even diet sodas are acidic and can damage enamel. So resolve to replace soda with water – it’s also great for weight loss and overall health.
- Sports drinks: These are often marketed as a healthy alternative to soda, but they’re usually full of sugar. In most cases, water is the best option for athletes young and old.
Oral Care After Mouth Healthy (And Not So Healthy) Foods
The upside of mouth-healthy foods is that they’re naturally low-maintenance. If you’re eating foods from the ADA’s fab five, chances are you’re just fine with brushing twice a day with a good floss before bed. But if you’re having trouble staying away from tricky foods, you’ll need to up your game. This can mean an extra brushing after a sticky snack or taking your floss to school or work.
At Hall Family Dentistry we make it our mission to encourage all patients to visit a dentist regularly for preventive care. While you’re here, we will provide you with great tips on how to eat right for oral health.