The first part of your digestive tract is your mouth; it’s also one of the first things affected by an unhealthy diet. We all know sugary foods and drinks are bad for our teeth, but what foods can we add to our diet to promote good oral health? In this article, I’m going to discuss the nutrients that benefit your mouth and best foods to strengthen your teeth.
Your bones and teeth need calcium to stay strong. Dairy is known for being an excellent source of calcium, but other foods can also provide this essential nutrient including:
- Dark leafy greens (spinach, collard greens, kale)
- Soy products
- Almonds and almond milk
- Seeds (poppy, sesame, chia, etc.)
- Hard cheeses
- Yogurt (look for low sugar content)
- Sardines and canned salmon
- Calcium-enriched foods
- Calcium supplement
Your body also needs vitamin D in order to properly absorb calcium. You can get vitamin D from exposing your skin to sunlight for short periods of time every day or by taking a daily dietary supplement.
Protein is essential for tissues, including gums and jaw muscles, to grow and repair themselves. Healthy gums act as a protective barrier, keeping bad bacteria away from the roots of your teeth and out of your bloodstream. Protein-rich foods also contain high amounts of phosphorus, which helps the body absorb calcium. High-protein foods include:
- Poultry (chicken, turkey, etc.)
- Seafood (fish, scallops, shellfish)
- Soy (edamame, tofu, soy milk)
- Beans (chickpeas, lentils, peas)
- Nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews)
When choosing protein sources, opt for whole foods or those with minimal processing. Products such as “protein bars” often hide harmful sugars alongside the protein they provide.
This one’s a no-brainer because fluoride does wonders for your teeth. It naturally protects and strengthens enamel, leading to less cavities over time. Luckily, most municipal water sources contain fluoride, which means all you’ve got to do is drink up! Drinking water also keeps your teeth clean and your mouth hydrated.
Regularly consuming foods with more vitamin C can help with bleeding gums, one of the primary signs of gingivitis (the earliest stage of periodontal disease). This nutrient also helps to kill off the bacteria that cause tooth decay. A variety of foods contain high amounts of vitamin C, including:
- Sweet potatoes
- Red peppers
While citrus fruits are a great way to get your vitamin C, their acids are somewhat harsh on tooth enamel. Make sure to mix up your sources of vitamin C by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables.
When considering foods to strengthen your teeth, it’s always better to eat whole foods, that is foods that are closest to their naturally occurring state. Also, a diet geared towards oral health has minimal amounts of sugar and processed carbohydrates. To find out more about me or my practice, check out my book, The Big Smile. You can also keep up with me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for more oral health tips.