Reviewed by Dr. Nizar Kharma
Brushing your teeth at least twice daily for the correct length of time and using an appropriate brushing technique is just part of the equation to keep your teeth and gums healthy. The dietary choices you make are also important. However, limiting sugary foods isn’t the only thing you need to do to prevent tooth decay.
Sugars Cause Decay
Although candies, cookies and desserts are obvious foods to keep to a minimum to protect your teeth from decay, any form of sugar can cause tooth caries. The Journal of Public Health Nutrition recommends limiting intake of sugars to less than 2 percent of total calories to reduce the risk of tooth decay.
Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages causes the most damage, but even the natural sugars present in fruit can contribute to the loss of tooth enamel. Rather than limiting your intake of fruit, you should aim to have fruit with your meal. If you do decide to have fruit or another sweet snack, it’s a good idea to rinse your teeth and mouth afterwards.
Watch out for Acidic Foods
Acidic foods can contribute to tooth decay just as much as sugary foods, as they erode the tooth enamel. Some of the worst offenders in the acidity stakes are wine, cola and citrus juices. However, if you still want to include acidic foods and drinks occasionally, team them with a more alkaline item. For instance, vegetable sticks, yoghurt or nuts are all good alkaline options.
Ensure a Good Intake of Calcium and Phosphorus
Calcium and phosphorus are both important for the remineralization of your teeth, helping to combat tooth erosion. Besides dairy produce, tofu, beans, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds also supply calcium in useful amounts. Meanwhile, aim for two or three portions of protein-rich foods daily, such as meat, fish, dairy, nuts or seeds, to get enough phosphorus from your diet.
Make Vitamin C a Priority
As low dietary intakes of vitamin C are linked to gum disease, ensuring a good intake of foods rich in vitamin C is essential for the health of your gums. Vitamin C plays an important role in collagen production, a protein that is essential for tissue growth and repair. Additionally, vitamin C is an antioxidant, allowing it to protect your gums from damaging free radicals, which you come into contact with daily. Smoking increases your exposure to free radicals, which explains why smokers have higher vitamin C requirements. While some of the foods that are a good source of vitamin C are acidic, such as citrus fruits, kiwis, tomatoes and berries, there are plenty of less acidic options for vitamin C; try green leafy vegetables, green peas and sweet potatoes.
Don’t Forget Folate
It isn’t just pregnant women who need to include plenty of folate in their diet, as this B vitamin protects your gums as well. Indeed, research suggests that folate improves the symptoms of gum disease and relieves inflamed gums. The best dietary sources of folate include leafy greens, beans, whole grains and breakfast cereals with added folic acid.
Your Teeth Need to Last You a Lifetime!
A diet rich in nutrients, avoiding too many sugary or acidic foods and good oral hygiene will ensure your teeth stay strong and bright for years to come. Just a little thought can save you a lot of pain and dental inconvenience. Look after your teeth and they will look after you.