It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that a person’s diet can have a big impact on their oral health. After all, there was a big reason your mother used to warn you that eating too much candy would rot your teeth. Unfortunately, in today’s fast-paced world where convenience and prepackaged foods have taken the place of home-cooked meals and snacks, many of us are getting too much sugar in our diets. This sugar overload, accompanied by a greater reliance on bottled water, is creating a cavity crisis in the U.S. Try making these minor tweaks to your diet and enjoy a healthier cavity-free smile.
Water: It Does Your Smile Good!
Hands down the best drink for your teeth is good old tap water. Most municipal water in the United States is fluoridated, meaning that a naturally occurring mineral called fluoride has been added to it. Fluoride, which you may recognize as the active ingredient in most dental care products, strengthens tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay. Many experts point to the popularity of bottled water (which contains no fluoride) as a contributing factor to the persistent tooth decay problem in the U.S.
Your best bet: purchase a refillable bottle or cup with a lid at your local megamart or grocery store and refill it frequently from the water fountain or tap.
Surprise! Some of your favorite crunchy snacks are healthy for your teeth:
- Nuts and seeds. Favorites like peanuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas) are high in teeth-friendly nutrients like magnesium, calcium, and vitamin D.
- High fiber, low sugar fruits and veggies. Think apple slices and carrot or celery sticks. Chewing on fibrous fruits and vegetables has a scrubber-like effect on the teeth and can effectively remove some plaque and food particles from the teeth.
Get Your Calcium the Smart Way
You probably already know that calcium is an essential nutrient for dental health, as well as bone health. Unfortunately, if you’re getting your calcium from sweetened dairy products, like chocolate milk or flavored yogurt cups, you might be doing your teeth a disservice. With an average 18-24 grams of sugar in a cup chocolate milk or a single serving of sweetened yogurt, the calcium benefits hardly outweigh the damage the sugar might cause.
Your best bets are to drink unsweetened milk or enjoy cheese (like string cheese or cheddar snacking sticks), which contains no sugar and all the benefits of calcium.