Every patient that looks for quality dental care in Castle Rock wants to have a bright and healthy looking smile. While brushing and flossing greatly impact our long-term oral health, the foods and beverages we consume also contribute to whether we enjoy healthy, white teeth or yellowish teeth impacted by tooth decay. To help educate patients on what a healthy, balanced diet should look like, the University Associates in Dentistry in Chicago created their list of “Foods and Beverages: The Best and Worst Options for Your Teeth.”
Instead of selecting starchy chips or crackers to munch on as a snack, UAD recommends selecting crunchy vegetables instead. Vegetables high in fiber help increase salivary flow, which works to wash away bacteria and foods particles that linger in the mouth after eating. The best crunchy vegetables to eat, like carrots, can actually help improve oral health.
Sugar-free gum can also be an ally in helping to protect our oral health when we don’t have the time to brush. The American Dental Association has noted that chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes following a meal helps lower the risk of tooth decay. That’s because the act of chewing increases the flow of saliva in the mouth, which works to neutralize and wash away acids produced when food is broken down by the bacteria in the plaque on our teeth.
Drinks that negatively impact our oral health are those high in sugar, such as alcohol and soda. Soda is especially bad for oral health as drinking it coats our teeth in sugar and acid, which weakens tooth enamel. Even diet soda presents a challenge to our oral health as the carbonation is acidic.
In addition to containing sugar, heavy alcohol consumption also reduces the amount of saliva our mouths produce. This increases the risk of suffering from tooth decay and dry mouth. Heavy drinkers have a higher risk of developing oral sores, tooth decay, and gum disease when compared to non- or moderate drinkers.
Alcohol also causes an additional buildup of plaque on the surface of our teeth, making heavy drinkers three times as likely to suffer from permanent tooth loss. Heavy drinkers are also at an increased risk of developing oral cancer.
Best Foods for Our Oral Health
Vegetables. Veggies high in fiber increase saliva flow, which helps wash away harmful bacteria. Crunchy vegetables like celery and carrots make for an ideal snack as they contain no sugar and actually help to scrub our teeth clean while being chewed.
Dairy. The calcium found in yogurt, milk, and cheese helps to re-mineralize tooth enamel. Re-mineralization is a process where vital minerals stripped from tooth enamel by plaque are replaced, helping to minimize the impact of tooth decay. To keep you from ingesting too many extra calories, opt for low-fat dairy options.
Sugar-free gum. As mentioned previously, chewing gum after a meal increases salivary flow, which helps to wash food particles and plaque away from the surface of our teeth. As with crunchy vegetables, chewing sugar-free gum scrubs the surface of our teeth similar to a toothbrush.
Water. Drinking water throughout the day keeps you hydrated, important for two reasons. First, studies have found that dehydration causes phantom hunger pangs, making it more likely you’ll continue snacking between meals. Second, staying hydrated also lowers your risk of dry mouth, a condition that negatively impacts long-term oral health.
Worst Foods for Our Oral Health
Ice. While you might not consider ice a food, that probably doesn’t stop you from munching on the ice left in your glass. Unfortunately, munching on ice can negatively impact your oral health. Solid objects become more brittle in the cold, and your teeth are no exception. So keep the ice in your glass and enjoy better oral health.
Sticky Foods. Candies and even dried fruit stay stuck to your teeth, prolonging their exposure to sugar. If you eat dried fruit, make sure to rinse your mouth thoroughly afterwards or brush if you have the chance.
Soda. As mentioned earlier, soda ranks as one of the biggest threats to our oral health. Not only does drinking soda coat our teeth in acid and sugars, which can damage tooth enamel, it also represents a massive amount of additional calories. Studies have found that regular soda drinkers have a significantly higher risk of developing diabetes, which in turns increases the risk of gum disease.
Alcohol. Heavy drinking can reduce saliva flow in the mouth. This increases the risk of dry mouth and tooth decay. Studies have also shown that heavy drinking may also increases an individual’s risk of developing oral cancer.