The Role of Diet in Oral Health: What to Eat for a Healthy Smile

The old saying, “You are what you eat” not only applies to a person’s health and wellness, but to one’s oral health as well!

A balanced and healthy diet provides the nutrients needed to help fight infection and disease and renew tissues in the mouth and gums. 

“Eating well is connected to good oral health, which is why it’s important to include AND minimize certain foods and drinks to maintain a healthy smile and combat potential issues,” stated Dr. Mariya Malin, renowned dentist and owner of Wilton Smiles in Wilton, CT. 

Foods & Drinks That Promote Good Oral Health

“A good diet will support regular oral care practices such as brushing your teeth, flossing, and regular visits to your dentist,” Dr. Malin commented. 

Dairy products

Dairy products like cheese, butter & milk are high in vitamin K2, a type of protein vital for healthy teeth. It works with vitamin D to transport calcium out of soft tissue and into the bloodstream for healthy teeth and bones in a process called mineralization.

Grass-fed dairy, which is derived from animals that eat mostly grass, is particularly good for the body.

Crunchy fruits and leafy vegetables

While flossing and brushing will always be the most effective way to clean your teeth, crunchy fruit and veggies like apples, carrots, and celery can actually help clean teeth and increase saliva production, which then neutralize the citric and malic acids left behind in your mouth

Additionally, leafy, dark greens such as kale, spinach, turnip greens, Swiss chard, and arugula are high in minerals and do your mouth/body good. These powerful prebiotics provide healthy oral bacteria in your mouth, thus supporting a strong oral microbiome, which is a collection of bacteria that combats the progression of infection and disease.

Eat a crunchy green salad regularly, knowing that it’s contributing to your good oral health! 

Phosphorus-rich foods

Phosphorus is an essential mineral that helps build healthy teeth and protects and rebuilds tooth enamel. 

Food rich in protein such as meat, poultry, fish, milk and eggs are the best sources of phosphorus, as are sunflower and pumpkin seeds, nuts, and whole grains including wheat, oats, and rice.

Grapefruit and oranges

While foods and beverages that are high in acids can break down the enamel that protects your teeth, in moderation, citrus fruits like grapefruit and oranges have  huge oral health benefits. 

The high levels of vitamin C strengthen the blood vessels and connective tissues in the mouth, thus slowing down the progression of gum inflammation which may lead to gum disease.

Cacao nibs

Chocolate lovers, rejoice! While regular chocolate may be loaded with added sugar, cacao nibs are a highly nutritious alternative that actually help prevent cavities by keeping certain oral bacteria in check and reduce the formation of plaque on teeth. 

Made from crushed pieces of cocoa beans, which are then used to make chocolate, cacao offers an impressive amount of protein, fiber, healthy fats, minerals, and antioxidants, which helps reduce cell damage in your body.  

Water

The healthiest drink available, H2O (particularly that with fluoride!) is a natural cavity fighter, washing away food and residue that can cause cavity-producing bacteria. In the right amount, fluoride is a mineral that strengthens teeth and prevents tooth decay.

While there was once controversy about fluoridation, efforts to provide water with optimal fluoride levels has been endorsed by the American Medical Association, the American Dental Association, and the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. Research shows that fluoridation is a cost-effective way to promote healthier communities.

In addition to its mouth-cleaning properties, water helps avoid dry mouth, a low production of saliva, which may put you at risk for tooth decay. Drinking plenty of water stimulates saliva being produced at an optimal rate. 

Foods & beverages that should be avoided and/or minimized

While there are so many nutritious options that support good oral health, here are a list of products to steer clear of:

  • Highly-acidic beverages: Coffee and alcoholic beverages are highly acidic and will erode tooth enamel over time, and may also stain your teeth
  • Processed, sugary items:  Things like donuts, candy, energy drinks, soda, cake, cookies, and other junk foods promote the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth, increasing gum recession or causing decay. Loads of sugar from items like sticky candy and other sweets can adhere to your teeth and fuel bacteria that feeds off these sugars.  
  • Starches: Foods high in carbohydrates like bread and chips promote the growth of harmful bacteria, which can then increase gum recession and the  possibility of gum disease and decay
  • Carbonated drinks: Not only can dark sodas discolor your teeth, but the huge amount of sugar found in carbonated beverages enable plaque to produce more acid that attacks tooth enamel. Sipping a soda means coating your teeth with acid that will cause destruction and decay.

Eat Well & Maintain Good Oral Health!

With so many nutritious options available, it is easy and delicious to support your family’s oral health! 

Here at Wilton Smiles, we encourage our patients to start incorporating oral-friendly options into their routines early on. Parents/caregivers, encourage your kids to reach for healthy snack options like cheese, yogurt, fresh veggies, and nuts, and steer clear of sugar-laden juices and sodas and processed junk foods. 

As a reminder, you are what you eat and there are so many positive dietary choices to maintain a healthy, vibrant smile! Connect with us today if you need more tips or to schedule your next appointment. 

Source(s):

American Dental Association 

WebMD

Healthline

University of Chicago

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