Better Living uses affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission (for which we are deeply grateful) at no cost to you.
Your mouth is more than just a tool for eating and speaking. It’s also a window to your overall health and well-being. Your oral health can affect your mood, your confidence, your appearance, and your quality of life. That’s why it’s important to take good care of your teeth and gums, and to avoid dental problems that can be painful and costly.
But how do you do that? How do you keep your mouth healthy and happy, without breaking the bank or relying on harsh chemicals?
The answer is simple: you use food as your medicine.
Food is not only a source of nourishment and pleasure, but also a powerful ally for your oral health. Food can help you prevent and heal cavities, balance the pH in your mouth, strengthen your enamel, and nourish your gums. Food can also help you fight off harmful bacteria and plaque, and stimulate your saliva, which is your mouth’s natural cleanser and healer.
Read on to discover how to eat for healthy teeth and gums, and how to enjoy the benefits of a healthy mouth for your whole body and mind.
Are you ready to transform your oral health with food? Then let’s dive in!
Cheese: A Natural Cavity Fighter
One of the foods that has been shown to have a beneficial effect on teeth is cheese. Cheese is rich in calcium, phosphorus, and casein, which are all important for strengthening the enamel and remineralizing the teeth. Cheese also helps to neutralize the acids in the mouth, which can erode the enamel and cause cavities.
Several studies have demonstrated the anti-cavity effect of cheese. For example, a study in Denmark gave small pieces of cheese to children before they went to school each morning after breakfast. The children who ate cheese had significantly fewer cavities than the children who did not. Another study gave children either cheddar cheese, milk, or sugar-free yogurt after a sugary snack. The children who ate cheese had the lowest acid levels in their mouth, followed by those who drank milk. The children who ate yogurt had the highest acid levels, which increased their risk of cavities.
These studies suggest that cheese can help prevent cavities by reducing the acidity in the mouth and providing minerals and proteins that strengthen the teeth. Therefore, it is a good idea to include cheese in your diet, especially after eating or drinking something sugary or acidic. You can also end your meal with a small piece of cheese, as they do in some parts of Europe, to protect your teeth from decay.
More Tooth-Protective Food and Drinks
Cheese is not the only food that can help you heal your teeth. There are other foods that can also prevent acidity, decay, and demineralization of the teeth. Some of these foods are:
Avocado is a healthy fat that can help balance the pH in the mouth and prevent bacterial growth. Avocados also contain vitamin K, which is essential for bone and tooth health.
Celery is a crunchy vegetable that can act as a natural toothbrush, scraping away food particles and plaque from the teeth. Celery also stimulates saliva production, which helps to wash away bacteria and remineralize the teeth.
Apples are another crunchy fruit that can clean the teeth and stimulate saliva. Apples also contain malic acid, which can help whiten the teeth and remove stains. However, apples are also acidic and contain natural sugars, so you should rinse your mouth with water after eating them.
Strawberries and Raspberries
These berries are delicious and contain xylitol, a natural sweetener that does not cause cavities. Xylitol also inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria and promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the mouth. You can eat these berries fresh or dip them in granular xylitol for extra protection.
Whole milk is another source of calcium, phosphorus, and casein that can help strengthen and remineralize the teeth. Whole milk also has a neutral pH, which means it does not cause acidity in the mouth. You can drink whole milk after a meal or snack to rinse away any sugars or acids and protect your teeth from decay.
Water is the best drink for your teeth, as it helps to hydrate the mouth, flush away food particles and bacteria, and maintain a healthy saliva flow. Water also contains fluoride, which is a mineral that can prevent and reverse cavities by hardening the enamel. You should drink water throughout the day and especially after eating or drinking anything else.
The Importance of Sequencing
The order in which you eat and drink can also affect your oral health. If you eat or drink something that can cause acidity or decay, such as soda, candy, or citrus fruits, you should not leave it in your mouth for too long. Instead, you should try to clean or wash your mouth as soon as possible, either by brushing your teeth, rinsing with water, or chewing sugar-free gum. Then, you should end with a tooth-protective food, such as cheese, xylitol, or milk, to neutralize the acids and remineralize the teeth.
One of the most tooth-protective foods is xylitol, which is a natural sweetener that can be found in some fruits, vegetables, and plants. Xylitol not only prevents cavities and feeds the good bacteria in the mouth, but it also stimulates a flow of saliva that cleans and heals the teeth and gums. Stimulated saliva is more alkaline and more healing than resting saliva, which means it can raise the pH in the mouth and reverse any demineralization that occurred during eating. You can use xylitol in various forms, such as mints, gum, candy, or granules, and enjoy its benefits for your oral health.
The key is to eat and drink, then clean or wash your mouth, and then end with a tooth-protective food. This way, you can prevent and heal cavities with food and enjoy a healthy smile.
💡 Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs. So, keep all products containing xylitol away from your furry friends.
Saliva: The Key to Oral Health
Another factor that affects the health of your teeth is saliva. Saliva is a natural fluid that is produced by your salivary glands and secreted into your mouth. Saliva has many functions, such as:
- Cleaning your teeth and gums by washing away food particles and bacteria
- Neutralizing the acids that cause tooth decay and erosion
- Remineralizing your enamel by delivering minerals such as calcium and phosphate
- Protecting your mouth from infections by containing antibodies and enzymes
- Lubricating your mouth and facilitating chewing, swallowing, and speaking
Saliva is the key to oral health, as it helps to heal your teeth and gums, prevent cavities, and maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your mouth. However, saliva production can be affected by many factors, such as:
- Diet: Certain foods and drinks can stimulate or reduce saliva flow. For example, sour or spicy foods, chewing gum, and xylitol mints can increase saliva production, while sugary or acidic foods and drinks, alcohol, and caffeine can decrease it.
- Medications: Some medications can cause dry mouth, a condition where the salivary glands produce less saliva than normal. This can increase the risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath. Some common medications that can cause dry mouth are antihistamines, antidepressants, diuretics, and painkillers.
- Health conditions: Some health conditions can also affect saliva production and quality. For example, diabetes, Sjogren’s syndrome, HIV, and cancer can cause dry mouth, while dehydration, stress, and hormonal changes can alter the composition of saliva.
To maintain a healthy saliva flow and quality, you should:
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and rinse your mouth
- Avoid or limit foods and drinks that can dry out your mouth, such as sugary or acidic foods and drinks, alcohol, and caffeine
- Chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free mints or candies that contain xylitol, a natural sweetener that stimulates saliva production and prevents cavities
- Eat foods that nourish your salivary glands and make your saliva more healing, such as leafy greens, celery, beets, onions, mushrooms, garlic, and other foods that are rich in nitric oxide, a molecule that improves blood circulation and oxygen delivery to your tissues
- Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and floss daily to remove plaque and bacteria from your teeth and gums
- Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings to monitor your oral health and treat any problems
By following these tips, you can ensure that your saliva is working for you, not against you, and keep your teeth and gums healthy and strong.
Digestive Health: The Foundation of Oral Health
The last thing you need to know about eating for healthy teeth is that your digestive health is the foundation of your oral health. Your digestive system is a long tube that starts in your mouth and ends in your anus. It is responsible for breaking down the food you eat, absorbing the nutrients, and eliminating the waste.
Your digestive health affects your oral health in many ways, such as:
- Absorption: Your digestive system determines how well you absorb the minerals and vitamins from your food, which are essential for building and maintaining your tooth structure and enamel. If you have poor digestion, you may not get enough of these nutrients, which can lead to weak and brittle teeth.
- Circulation: Your digestive system influences your blood circulation, which carries the nutrients and oxygen to your salivary glands and oral tissues. If you have poor digestion, you may have poor blood flow, which can impair your saliva production and quality, and reduce your ability to heal and fight infections.
- Immunity: Your digestive system affects your immune system, which protects you from harmful bacteria and viruses that can cause oral diseases. If you have poor digestion, you may have a weak immune system, which can make you more susceptible to cavities, gum disease, and oral infections.
- Microbiome: Your digestive system hosts a complex community of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms, called the microbiome, that help you digest your food, regulate your metabolism, and modulate your immunity. Your oral microbiome is part of your digestive microbiome, and they influence each other. If you have poor digestion, you may have an imbalance in your microbiome, which can disrupt the harmony of your oral bacteria and cause problems such as bad breath, plaque, and inflammation.
To improve your digestive health and your oral health, you should:
- Eat a balanced and varied diet that includes plenty of fiber, probiotics, prebiotics, and antioxidants, which can support your digestion, absorption, circulation, immunity, and microbiome
- Avoid or limit foods and drinks that can irritate your digestive system, such as processed, fried, spicy, or fatty foods, gluten, dairy, alcohol, and caffeine
- Chew your food well and eat slowly, which can help you digest your food better and prevent overeating
- Drink enough water, but not too much during meals, which can dilute your digestive juices and interfere with your digestion
- Manage your stress, which can affect your digestion, blood flow, immunity, and microbiome
- Exercise regularly, which can improve your digestion, blood circulation, immunity, and microbiome
By taking care of your digestive health, you can also take care of your oral health, and vice versa. Your mouth and your gut are connected, and they both need your attention and care.
Food can have a significant impact on your oral health, either positively or negatively. By choosing foods that can prevent acidity, decay, and demineralization, and by sequencing them properly, you can heal your teeth with food and avoid costly and painful dental treatments. Some of the best foods for your teeth are cheese, xylitol, avocado, celery, apples, strawberries, raspberries, whole milk, and water. By incorporating these foods into your diet and following good oral hygiene practices, you can improve your oral health and your overall well-being.