When it comes to staying fit and healthy our diets play a crucial role in allowing our bodies to function properly, including our teeth and gums. For general health and wellbeing the best diet is always a balanced one – one that covers all the main food groups without anything being too much in excess. Of course each of us is different but our teeth and gums are all made from the same hard and soft tissues.
The single most important thing to reiterate is the damage that sugar will do to oral health. Refined sugars are particularly bad and can literally dissolve our teeth, causing severe decay and cavities. So if you are after something sweet – opt for fresh fruits that are not too acidic. The firmer and crunchier the better as the higher water content will dilute the affects of the sugars they contain, whilst stimulating the flow of saliva – our mouth’s natural cleaning fluid.
Sugar-free foods can be a bit of a double-edged sword because of the chemicals they contain. However, they are certainly a lot friendlier on the teeth and don’t feed the bacteria that leads to decay-causing acids. Sugar-free gum is a convenient way to help clean the teeth a little after eating, stimulating the saliva glands and encouraging the mouth to wash itself. The mint flavours can even help to freshen the breath.
Calcium is immensely good for teeth and bones, because they are made from it. So any food high in calcium will help to increase the strength of your teeth and their enamel coating. This includes dairy foods and certain green vegetables such as broccoli, kale and watercress. A point to remember is that our bodies can only absorb calcium if they have enough vitamin D, which comes from natural sunlight. So eating al fresco is also good for your teeth!
A healthy mouth undergoes its own inbuilt re-mineralising process, where minerals are re-deposited into tooth enamel after being removed by acids. We can assist this process by eating foods containing calcium and phosphorus – such as those listed above, as well as nuts and meats.
Overall then, the best foods are ones that are high in vitamins and minerals, but low in sugar. Acidic foods should be eaten as part of a larger meal so they are not as concentrated, and sticky foods are best kept to a minimum. Drinking plenty of water is the best way to wash food down and to stay hydrated.