When it comes to eating healthily, we all know which foods benefit the different parts of our bodies, such as oily fish for our hearts, brightly coloured fruit and vegetables for our immune systems and protein for our bones and muscles.
But when thinking about the nutritional benefits of certain foods, it’s easy to overlook our teeth and gums. However, there are plenty of foods that contain tooth-friendly nutrients. And in conjunction with a good brushing and flossing routine, can help keep your teeth and gums in tiptop condition.
In this article, we’ll look at the best foods for strong teeth and gums. From cheese to tofu to sweet potatoes, including these foods in your diet could mean a healthier smile and fewer trips to the dentist.
Brightly coloured fruit and vegetables
They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but it could also help keep the dentist at bay too.
That’s because brightly coloured fruit and vegetables such as citrus fruits, peppers, kiwis, melon, broccoli and strawberries are rich in vitamin C. Our bodies use vitamin C to produce collagen,
which keeps the connective tissues in our gums healthy and strong. Various studies have linked low levels of vitamin C to an increased risk of periodontal disease.
Upping your intake of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables could protect against gingivitis and prevent the need for gum disease treatment further down the line.
Milk and yogurt
Dairy products are a great bet for strong teeth because they contain three powerhouse nutrients: calcium, phosphorus and casein.
Calcium helps maintains bone density in your jaw, which in turn supports the function and structure of your teeth. It also strengthens tooth enamel, protecting against erosion and decay.
Phosphorus helps the body absorb and use calcium, helping to strengthen bone and tooth enamel.
Finally, there’s casein. This protein not only reduces or prevents enamel erosion, but it’s also been shown to prevent staining of teeth, keeping your pearly whites looking exactly that.
Vegan or avoiding dairy? Look for fortified versions of your favourite milks and yogurts. For other great veggie sources of calcium, keep reading.
Yes, it’s also a dairy product and packed with calcium (it’s one of the highest sources), phosphorus and casein. However, cheese comes with an additional benefit that sets it apart from milk and yogurt. A study found that consuming cheese increases the pH levels in the mouth, lowering the risk of tooth erosion and cavities.
Parmesan cheese comes out on top with the highest level of calcium, followed by paneer and edam. Softer cheeses tend to have lower amounts.
Just remember that cheese is also high in saturated fat, salt and cholesterol, so make sure to keep your portions small – around 30g.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts are a good way to get an additional calcium hit, so stock up on them on your next trip to the supermarket. If you want to know why calcium is such an important nutrient for your dental health, then see the ‘milk and yogurt’ section.
Almonds top the charts with highest level of calcium (and phosphorus), followed by brazil and hazelnuts. Seeds too, are also good sources, with sesame, chia and flax seeds coming on top. Sprinkle a handful onto your breakfast in the morning, add them to curries or stir-fries or nibble on some almonds as a midday snack.
A super-versatile and tasty food for meat-eaters, vegans and everyone in between, tofu is one of the most potent calcium sources. It also serves up a good source of phosphorus, which supports calcium’s role in keeping the jawbone and tooth enamel healthy.
Not a convert? Believe us, if you think you don’t like tofu, you just haven’t found the right recipe yet.
Green, leafy vegetables
Eat your greens. It’s an old saying, but green, leafy vegetables provide a plethora of tooth and gum-friendly nutrients including calcium and phosphorus.
The top performers are kale, spring greens, parsley and watercress. Chuck some chopped-up kale into a stir-fry or throw a handful of spinach into your next smoothie to get your fix. Do note however, spinach is also high in oxalates, which impair calcium absorption, making them not as powerful as spring greens.
These delicious orange vegetables are a good source of beta-carotene. The body converts beta-carotene into Vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant that protects our mouths against infection.
How? A shortage of vitamin A can cause saliva glands to shrink, meaning you produce less. Saliva helps neutralise the acid in our mouths, protecting us from bacteria that causes gum and tooth infection.
Sweet potatoes taste great mashed, roasted or made into fries. For alternative vitamin A boosts, opt for carrots, green leafy vegetables, red peppers and mango.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a wide range of oral health disorders such as dental cavities and gum disease. That’s because it works with calcium and phosphate to help regulate their amounts in the body. As such, it’s crucial for building and maintaining healthy bones.
Its other function is to boost the immune system, helping to repair damaged dentin and fight or prevent gingivitis.
We get the majority of our vitamin D from sunlight, but during the darker months, we need to up our intake through food. Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines are a great source of vitamin D, as are egg yolks and red meat.
If you’re veggie, you’ll need to take a supplement or look for fortified foods with added vitamin D.
If you’re looking for gum disease treatment in Leeds, Selby, Aberford or the surrounding areas, Dr Gahan is a registered periodontist with over 18 years of experiences. He works from Finkle Hill Dental Care in Sherburn in Elmet. Simply get in touch with the friendly team to arrange a consultation with him.