Most adults in the US will experience some type of oral health issue in their life, ranging from minor plaque build-up to potentially life threatening periodontal disease. The importance of regular brushing and flossing after every meal, along with annual dental check-ups used as preventive measures cannot be overstated. If you can add certain nutrient-packed foods to this regimen, you will give your teeth and gums a tasty, healthy boost on a daily basis.
The following is a list of super-foods that contain many of the vitamins and minerals known to promote good oral health.
* Green Tea: This simple, but highly effective drink tops the list of natural ways to prevent periodontal disease. Green tea contains compounds called catechins, which have strong anti-inflammatory properties. It's also a rich source of fluoride, an element known to prevent tooth decay. However, care does need to be taken that you don't consume too much, as this can have a negative effect on your teeth and bones. If you plan on drinking green tea daily, it's best to consume fluoride-free drinking water and toothpaste/mouthwash.
* Nuts and Seeds: One of nature's perfect snacks, nuts and seeds have high percentages of practically every mineral needed for healthy teeth and gums, including magnesium, potassium, and calcium. In fact, nuts rank as the second most bio-available form of calcium after dairy products, resulting in a much better job of tooth remineralization than any supplement can achieve. The best nut sources for a wide variety of minerals are cashews, brazil nuts, and almonds. While not as high in calcium as their nut counterparts, sunflower and sesame seeds are both great sources of iron and magnesium.
* Onions/Garlic: These two have large concentrations of the antibacterial compound allicin, which is very effective in preventing gingivitis. Both do the most good if eaten raw, and not to worry, the resulting malodorous breath can be neutralized by drinking whole or 2% milk or you can freshen your breath with some natural mouthwashes.
* Leafy Greens: Vegetables like spinach, kale, and broccoli, are all packed with vitamin C, which reduces inflammation. The extra chewing needed to process these foods is perfect for scouring teeth of plaque and creating saliva to protect the gums. Because of their cleansing attributes, leafy vegetables work best when eaten last and separate of the main course.
* Crunchy Fruits and Veggies: Apples, celery, carrots, etc. all do a good job of removing food particles stuck to your teeth. The extra chewing and fibrous make-up of these foods and in particular celery, act as a natural form of dental floss, although this shouldn’t replace your daily oral care routine.
* Dairy Products: Milk, yogurt, and cheese are the best natural sources of bio-available calcium, which is crucial for teeth and bone strength. They also contain a protein called casein; a highly effective neutralizer of the acids that can damage your tooth enamel and gum tissue.
* Vitamin C Superfoods: The wonderful anti-inflammatory vitamin C can be obtained from many different sources. However, items such as radishes, kiwi fruit, peppers, and strawberries are considered low-acid, and are less likely to damage your tooth enamel than similar, but higher acid fruits like lemons, limes, and grapefruit.
* Fish: All cold water, high fat fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel have high concentrations of vitamin D, a micro-nutrient that must be present in order for your body to properly absorb calcium. These type of fish also contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids, which has been found to prevent gum disease.
In addition to these teeth and gum-friendly foods, good water intake throughout the day is essential to wash away any lingering food particles leftover from your brushing and flossing. Being properly hydrated has the added benefit of helping boost saliva production; the natural way your body deals with the agents of tooth and gum decay.
One of the best ways to keep your teeth clean if you can't brush or floss after a meal is to chew gum containing xylitol. This natural sweetener is unique in that it can't be digested by the acid-causing bacteria in your mouth, so any growth is inhibited. Before purchasing this gum, be sure xylitol is listed as the only sweetener, and not combined with something like sorbitol.
Any food that is high in processed sugars and acids are terrible for your teeth and gums. Tooth decaying plaque absolutely thrives in the presence of either. The worst foods for teeth are anything that is very sticky, like candy, or starchy, like crackers. Eating either one will result in very hard to clean teeth.
Given the expense and inconvenience of most dental office procedures, it is nice to know something as simple as eating the right foods can help prevent tooth and gum problems. Like the old saying goes, be true to your teeth or they'll be false to you!
By Aurora Chelo, of Pearly Whites
Guest Editorial Spot!