BY SHARON REID
Having a sound nutritional strategy to maintain healthy teeth and gum tissue is essential for keeping teeth for a lifetime. What you eat and the vitamins and minerals that you take are key to keeping teeth and gums strong. Without teeth, you can’t chew…period. Just close your eyes and imagine your favorite meal and how delicious each bite tastes with every chew. Next, imagine having no teeth and experiencing the same meal. Not quite the same visual, is it?
You have to have strong teeth and gums to eat foods that are good for you, and you have to eat nutritional foods to have healthy teeth. You can’t have one without the other.
When your diet is not healthy, one of the first signs is a decline in your oral health. Whether we like it or not, we are what we eat. If a diet is high in processed foods, high in fat and high in sugar (think candy and soft drinks), the teeth will be much more susceptible to decay and the gums much more likely to have inflammation, which more often than not, will lead to periodontal disease over time.
The good news is that there are many delicious and nutritious options out there that will help fulfill the “double” duty of keeping both the teeth strong and the gums healthy. Here are a few that most of my patients find appetizing.
Apples: If you have a “sweet” tooth, this versatile fruit can satisfy that craving. Apples are very high in fiber and water which is also very good for digestive health. When chewing, their fibrous texture produces extra saliva to rinse away bacteria and food particles.
Cranberries/Blueberries/Raspberries: These plant foods are rich in anthocyanins (or water soluble pigments) which can prevent bacteria in the mouth from sticking to your teeth and gums to thwart tooth decay and gum issues.
Almonds: Almonds are an excellent source of protein and calcium and are also low in sugar, which makes them great for teeth and gums.
Cheese: Seriously… who doesn’t love cheese? Now you have another reason to indulge in this tasty food. Studies show that eating cheese changes the PH (the acid/base balance) in the mouth, making the mouth more alkaline, which lowers the incidence of tooth decay, plus it contains calcium and phosphorous which will strengthen enamel.
Leafy Greens: These foods (especially spinach and kale) are high in calcium which fortifies tooth enamel. They also contain folic acid which promotes healthy gum tissue. The added benefit is that they are low in calories, so munch on!
Yogurt: Most yogurts today advertise the benefit of probiotics or beneficial bacteria which is “good” for oral health because these “good” bacteria don’t allow the “bad” bacteria (that cause cavities and gum disease) to take control. They are also a great source of calcium and protein (just choose one with no added sugar).
These are just a few of many excellent sources for meals and snacks that will benefit your dental health and longevity. I hope these suggestions have given you something to chew on.