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Chew on This: Healthy Foods for Your Teeth

Dentists often caution their patients about eating certain foods because they are bad for the teeth. Foods like candy and sugary snacks lead to tooth decay, coffee, wine and other dark beverages leave stains on teeth and even spaghetti sauce and foods high in acids are touted as dangerous to tooth enamel. The list goes on and rules out a lot of different foods, leaving many individuals to wonder if there are any foods are good for the teeth?

“There are many kinds of foods that are good for the teeth,” Topeka, Kan. dentist Dr. Stefania Caracioni, D.D.S., L.V.I.F., said.

The American Dental Association says that calcium rich foods are the best options for healthy teeth.
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“Calcium-rich foods include milk, cheese and yogurt, and even though they are high in lactose, a dietary sugar, they promote healthy teeth,” Caracioni said.

Yogurt is also rich in probiotics that neutralize decay and gum disease-causing bacteria. Furthermore, milk and other calcium-rich foods have been found to protect the teeth from damage, according to the American Academy of Oral-Systemic Health, when consumed along with foods that are known to cause cavities.

Although milk is great for the teeth, Caracioni advises parents not to put their children to sleep with a bottle of milk, because the lactose will cause damage when left on the teeth overnight.

“Milk is perfectly fine to drink during the day, but brush your teeth thoroughly and brush your children’s teeth thoroughly before going to sleep,” she said.

She also advises her patients not to allow juice or sugar added beverages overnight, either.

“When sugar is allowed to linger on the teeth overnight, it feeds decay-causing bacteria,” she said.

Caracioni also recommends that patients eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, specifically those vegetables that are crunchy, like carrots, broccoli or celery. Crunching on vegetables helps to promote the production of saliva, which helps to neutralize any potentially dangerous to enamel acids in the mouth.

“The rough texture of crunchy veggies also helps to clean off dental plaque from the teeth as you chew,” Caracioni said.

Plaque is the soft, sticky film full of bacteria that forms on the teeth and gums in between brushings. If plaque is not brushed away, patients risk developing tooth decay and periodontal disease. Plaque left on the teeth also hardens over time into tartar, a hard, bony material that fills the spaces between the teeth and stretches below the gums. Tartar is impenetrable to brushing and must be removed through scaling. It is also important for patients to limit those fruits and vegetables that are high in acidity, like tomatoes, grapefruit and oranges.

“Too much acid will erode tooth enamel over time,” Caracioni said.

After eating citrus or high acidic fruits, patients should brush their teeth immediately. Caracioni also says that sipping on beverages with a high amount of acid throughout the day washes the teeth over and over again with this acid.

“If you’re going to have an acidic beverage, be sure to have it in one sitting, and not over several hours,” Caracioni said. “When you’re finished- go brush your teeth.”

Other foods that are good for the teeth may be surprising. One of these foods is actually a beverage- green tea. Green tea contains polyphenols, antioxidants which break down dental plaque. These powerful antioxidants are also found in wine. Raisins are another surprising pro-teeth food. Although raisins are sticky, they also contain polyphenols, just like wine and green tea, but they don’t stain teeth.

While these foods are great for the teeth, like all things should be consumed in moderation. Patients should not rely on food to take care of their teeth alone, but also need to brush at least twice per day and floss once per day.