Food for Healthy Teeth And Gums

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What is the best food for healthy teeth and gums?

There are no two ways about it – your diet has a huge impact on the condition and health of your teeth and gums, for better or for worse. Making tweaks and changes to your diet can be one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to improve your oral health.

When it comes to taking care of your teeth and gums, the impact of diet is often overlooked. Your dentist may have given you a few useful recommendations, such as cutting down on your intake of sugary foods and drinks, but there is so much more to a balanced diet and oral health than adjusting the amount of sugar you consume.

In this article, we’ll give you the well-rounded diet advice you need to maintain a healthy smile and strong, healthy gums.

Foods and drinks that promote healthy teeth and gums

The importance of eating a balanced diet consisting of nutrient rich foods from all the food groups cannot be overstated. Eating right influences not only the health and fitness of your body and your mind, it comes with oral health benefits too.

Fortunately, the same foods and drinks that are beneficial for your overall health are also beneficial for your teeth and gums. 

Whole grains

Whole grains are a cornerstone of any healthy diet. 

Not only are whole grains hugely beneficial for your digestion and feeling of fullness after you have eaten, consuming enough grains can also help you keep gum disease at bay while maintaining fresh breath.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are very low in sugar, making them great for both your oral health and health overall. They are the perfect snacks, and easy to take with you on the go as a replacement for sugary energy bars or candy.

What’s more, nuts and seeds including almonds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts are highly fibrous foods and high in calcium, which helps strengthen your tooth enamel and protect against decay.

Calcium rich foods

As a rule of thumb, all calcium-rich foods are sure winners in terms of healthy foods that are also great for your teeth and gums.

One of the key problems leading to tooth decay is decalcification of the teeth’s enamel, which is the hard, protective layer that covers and protects the softer and more vulnerable parts of the tooth against bacterial infection and decay. Consuming calcium rich foods, such as sugar-free diary products such as fat free milk and plain yoghurt, helps keep your teeth healthy and strong. 

Probiotic containing foods

Any foods containing probiotics are great for maintaining oral health and fighting gum disease. Foods containing probiotics include kimchi, kefir and saurekraut.

Probiotic rich foods support healthy bacteria while preventing plaque buildup and harmful bacteria from coating your teeth and gums. 

Fruits and vegetables

You probably already know that you should be eating more raw vegetables and leafy greens, but consider this your timely reminder that consuming enough fresh fruits and vegetables is key to great health, including great oral health.

If your diet contains enough fruit and vegetables you are practically guaranteed a strong immune system and fewer health problems than the average person. Dark, leafy greens in particular are rich in calcium and folic acid, which strengthens tooth enamel and helps fight gum disease. 

Fresh fruits such as apples and oranges contain high doses of Vitamin C, which is a powerful immune system booster and helps to keep your gum tissues strong and firm.

Eating apples, grapes and other fruits is easy enough as they are high in fruit sugar and therefore super tasty. The challenge usually lies in getting enough dark green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach. A great way of ensuring that you get plenty of these is to invest in a blender so you can make delicious – and super healthy – green smoothies.

Fatty fish

Salmon, herring and other fatty and oily fish are rich in omega-3, which has beneficial effects on everything from your hair to your gum tissues. 

The high, healthy fat content in oily fish means that they have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, including the gums.

Grass-fed beef

Assuming you are not a vegetarian, grass-fed beef is one of the best foods you can consume to keep your gums healthy.

Grass-fed beef is high in collagen, omega-6 and antbiotics, all of which have a healthful effect on all of the body’s tissues.

Tea

Green and black teas are rich in polyphenols, which can help prevent plaque from forming on your teeth and gums. 

Of course, too much tea can stain your teeth, but drinking tea now and then can help you maintain your oral health.

Worst foods and drinks for oral health

We’ll keep this section brief, but this article would not be completely without also mentioning some of the worst foods for oral health. 

Sugary foods

Sugary foods and snacks such as candy, cake, chocolate and ice cream are not only unhealthy for your entire body – they’re also very unhealthy for your teeth and gums.

Sugar causes 

Acidic foods

Highly acidic foods have the effect of weakening your tooth enamel, which leaves your teeth vulnerable to decay.

The tricky parts that many acidic foods, such as fruits, are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, which are healthy for your body but not for your teeth. Citrus fruit is a great example. Although rich in Vitamin C, citrus fruit is extremely acidic, so make sure you have it in sparing quantities. 

Dried fruit

Dried fruit such as raisins, apricots and prunes are extremely sticky to chew. This means that the have a tendency to stick to the teeth and get caught between the teeth’s crevices, where they may start festering and causing plaque to build up.

Bread

Bread isn’t bad for your teeth or gums in and of itself, but when you chew it, it turns into a sticky past that can easily get trapped in every crevice in and between your teeth. 

Potato chips

Potato chips may be delicious, but they are full of starch that turns into sugar and coats your teeth and gums. 

Alcohol

Alcohol dries out your mouth, which means limiting the saliva production that your teeth need to stay clean and healthy.

Carbonated drinks

Unfortunately, carbonated sodas are extremely damaging to teeth, as they allow plaque to produce more acid and attach the tooth enamel more effectively.

Ice and hard candy

Chewing on hard surfaces such as ice cubes or hard candies puts you at risk of chipping or breaking your teeth.

Impact of a poor diet on your oral health

The benefits of consuming a healthy diet are self-evident, as discussed throughout this article, but what are the costs to your oral health if you don’t eat a healthy and balanced diet?

In this final section of the article we’ll talk about the negative oral health problems you can expect if you are not eating the right. Understanding why you should eat well is a key motivating factor in helping you make the right choices.

Bad breath

The first and most immediate impact of over-conusming starchy or sugary foods is chronic bad breath. 

Whenever you consume sugary and starchy foods, your mouth gets filled with harmful bacteria that coat your gum tissues and teeth. The result is plaque buildup and a constant, low-level smell of decomposing food particles.

Tooth decay

Tooth decay is a real risk of eating an unhealthy and unbalanced diet. 

Sugary and highly acidic foods, as well as carbonated drinks, alcohol, and the other ‘worst foods for dental health’ foods we have covered in this article, pose particular threats to your teeth, as they break down your tooth enamel over time and cause tooth decay.

Tooth decay is not only painful to experience, it can also be expensive to repair, particularly if the decay has reached the pulp and effectively spread to the entire tooth. In worst case scenarios, tooth decay can be extremely dangerous for your health if allowed to spread to your jaw and surrounding tissues.

You can, to some extent, mitigate the negative impact of eating starchy, sugary or acidic foods, or of drinking carbonated drinks or alcohol, by rinsing your mouth with water in the aftermath. Having said that, rinsing your mouth with water is by no means a free pass to consuming a poor diet – it only softens the blow a little. 

Gum disease

Yet another risk of relying on an unhealthy diet is gum disease, also known as periodontal disease.

Gum disease causes our gums to become red, inflamed and irritated, usually as a result of plaque buildup. If you eat well and practice good oral hygiene, gum disease is unlikely, but even if you brush and floss every day as recommended by the American Dental Association, you’re still at risk of developing gum disease if your diet is poor.

Gum disease is an incredibly unpleasant condition, involving gum inflammation and soreness that is sure to keep you distracted from your day-to-day tasks. Gum disease treatments involve a form of professional dental cleaning called scaling and root planing, usually accompanied by a course of antibiotics to combat the infection. 

If you develop gum disease, never let it go untreated and assume it is going to disappear on its own. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to loose gums, tooth loss and serious levels of inflammation. 

Final thoughts 

Eating right is important for your whole body, and this includes your gums and teeth. Many overlook the important impact their diet has on their dental health, but armed with the information this article has provided you with, we know you won’t make the same mistake.

When you consume a healthy diet and refrain from over-consuming sugary and starchy foods as well as carbonated drinks, your immune system will reward you. Healthy teeth and gums is just one of the perks of being conscious of what kind of fuel you put in your body.

Dr Febin Mary George - Editor

With more than 10 years as a dental surgeon, Dr Febin Mary George is passionate about educating consumers around the world to help look after their teeth.

She completed her Bachelor of Surgery at the Century Institute of Dental Science and Research Centre in 2010.

Alongside editing the International Journal of Dental Clinics she has also written for major publications including Thrive Global.