Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Dietary Habits for a Healthy Mouth

You know how important a good diet is to your overall health, but did you know that what you eat can impact your dental health just as much as your hygiene habits do? Certain foods have cleaning or strengthening properties for gums and teeth, while others damage enamel and enhance bacteria production. Here's a quick rundown of the most important foods to seek out, and those to stay away from.

Foods to eat:

-High-calcium foods- dairy items are great sources of calcium, but you can also get a good dose from kale, collard greens, soy beans, salmon and sardines. Don't forget that without healthy levels of vitamin D, your body can't properly process vitamin C, so add foods like tuna, egg yolks, and vitamin-fortified foods like soy milk and cereal to your diet. Your body can also produce vitamin D from absorbed sunlight- don't overdo it, but spending some time in the sun can help your produce this important vitamin.

-Cheese has recently been shown to help neutralize acids in the mouth as well as forming a temporary protective coating against staining and sugary residue.

-Vitamin C is another essential nutrient to maintaining a healthy mouth. With excellent antioxidant properties, eating a good daily dose of vitamin C can help you avoid gum disease. Look for this vitamin in fruits, particularly carrots, oranges and sweet potatoes. Try to stick with whole fruits as opposed to fruit juices; most fruit juices have heft doses of added sugar and can be quite acidic, which erodes tooth enamel.

-Good news for those with a sweet tooth! Dark chocolate contains healthy, decay-fighting antioxidants. The tannins contained in dark chocolate may also help balance the pH of your mouth, lowering acidity.

-Water- no surprise here, since we all know hydration is essential to good health. However, even the act of drinking water helps rinse away harmful bacteria before they get a chance to start producing harmful acid.

-Other helpful beverages are green and black teas. These teas contain antioxidants which prevent free radicals from damaging healthy cells in your mouth. Some studies have also shown that black tea prevents bacteria from multiplying and producing acid. However, black tea can also have a staining effect if you drink it regularly, so remember to brush your teeth after a glass.

-Fruits and vegetables have all kinds of nutritional benefits, but crunchy, fibrous fruits and veggies can also help clean your teeth naturally. Broccoli, carrots, and apples all have a sort of scrubbing effect on the teeth, removing debris before it gets the chance to start feeding bacteria.

Foods to be wary of:

-You probably already know that sugary foods have a negative effect on your teeth- things like candy, ice cream, fruit juice and blended coffee drinks often contain more sugar than any other ingredient, though it's possible to find sugar-free versions of most items you enjoy. Moreover, sticky candies like caramels or hard candy tend to sit in the mouth for a long period of time, extending the amount of time your teeth are exposed to sugary residue.

-You may not realize that bacteria process starchy foods in much the same way as sugar, meaning it's easily converted to enamel-eroding acid. This includes many cereals, bread, potatoes, rice and grains. However, unlike candy and ice cream, many of these foods have positive health benefits as well, so you shouldn't cut them out altogether. Just don't go overboard on the starches, and make sure to brush your teeth after a starchy meal.

A healthy lifestyle enthusiast, F.R. writes about keeping our bodies and oral health in prime condition. Look for similar topics from a top dentist in Arlington - team dentist for the Texas Rangers. His specialty is creating beautiful, healthy smiles using stress-free care and a comfortable environment in his Arlington dental office.
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