How your diet affects your teeth
Dental health becomes more important as we age. According to MedlinePlus.gov, age-related changes such as decreased bone density and slower cell turnover affect the tissue and bone in the mouth. Over time, this increases the risk of oral health problems, including gum disease and dry mouth. If left unchecked, poor oral health can even lead to other health problems, such as heart disease and pneumonia.
Your diet plays a role in the health of your teeth because you eat and drink throughout the day – and of course all that food passes through your mouth. The ADA warns that regularly consuming acidic foods can erode enamel and predispose teeth to tooth decay, while sticky foods like dried fruit can also lead to damage, as they typically last longer on teeth. In addition, excessive alcohol consumption can reduce saliva production over time; the ADA notes that this causes tooth decay and other oral infections, including gum disease.
That probably all sounds scary. Fortunately, there are plenty of foods you can enjoy that offset these effects and actually contribute to healthy teeth.
Foods that are good for your teeth
Regularly consuming a range of supportive foods nourishes your teeth and gums. Here are three nutrients the ADA suggests targeting when making food choices:
Calcium: Foods such as cheese, milk, enriched tofu, yogurt, leafy greens and almonds are all rich in calcium. This mineral (known as the most abundant mineral in the body) strengthens the enamel – the hard outer shell of a tooth. The Mayo Clinic notes that the recommended daily calcium intake for women ages 19 to 50 is 1,000 milligrams (mg).
Phosphorus: This mineral works with calcium to protect and rebuild tooth enamel. The best sources of phosphorus are meat, poultry, eggs, nuts and legumes. According to the experts at Mount Sinai Health System, adults should aim for 700 mg per day.
Fiber (via fruits and vegetables): Fruits and vegetables such as apples, oranges, carrots and celery are fibrous. Chewing these foods helps stimulate saliva production to remove harmful acids and food particles from the teeth. Vitamin C-rich products are also needed to protect gums and other tissues against bacterial infection and cell damage. Federal guidelines indicate that adults should consume up to a combined 5 cups of fruits and vegetables each day.
It comes down to
It seems the old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” applies to the dentist too! Eating the right foods and taking care of your dental health will result in less frequent visits to the dentist and more protection against disease over time – a win-win situation. For additional tips on achieving a brighter smile, check out these stories about using mouthwash before brushing and whether dental floss should be chosen instead of a water awl.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your doctor before following any treatment plan.