Oral health is a key factor and one of the most underrated aspects of overall full-body health. Clogged arteries, diabetes and difficulties during pregnancy are just some of the complications that poor oral health can lead to.
Brushing, flossing and visiting your dentist regularly are recommended habits to maintain a healthy mouth, but there are other simple and natural ways you can improve your oral health. Did you know that a simple change in your diet can have a profound affect on your oral health?
Keep your smile healthy for a lifetime. Small changes in diet are an easy and natural way to support good oral health as well as overall full-body health. All of these foods should be consumed and used in moderation. Anything in excess has the potential to damage teeth or other parts of your body. In addition to any of the suggested natural ways to improve your oral health, always remember to brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, floss between your teeth once a day, and visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and checkups.
Incorporate the foods listed below into your diet to help support a healthy mouth (and body), reduce the risk of tooth decay and brighten up those pearly whites.
Foods that Naturally Support Healthy Gums
Foods that support healthy gums can include:
- Green tea: Some research suggest that this antioxidant-rich tea can help with inflammation in the body. A specific type of antioxidant, called catechins, help gums fight off inflammation caused by the oral bacteria responsible for gum disease. The catch is, this needs to be green tea without fruit additives, like orange spice or pomegranate. These added fruit flavors have a high acidity that can have a negative effect on enamel – minimize consumption of these types of teas.
- Pomegranate: Studies have shown that pomegranate fights against harmful oral bacteria and has antimicrobial activity, warding against gum disease. Be sure to only consume high acidic foods, like citrus fruit, in limited quantities. If consumed in excess, the acid found in these foods can have damaging effects on tooth enamel.
- Peppers and citrus fruit: As well as being packed with Vitamin C, pepper and fruits like, kiwis, oranges, and pineapple have anti-inflammatory property that is beneficial to gums and overall dental health. Please remember to consume high acidic foods, like citrus fruit, in limited quantities. If consumed in excess, the acid found in these foods can have damaging effects on tooth enamel.
- Shiitake mushrooms: Lentinan is an antibacterial compound found in shiitake mushrooms and fights against plaque-building bacteria in the mouth.
- Onions: Onions neutralize bacteria in the mouth that causes gum disease and cavities.
- Dairy products: A high intake of calcium and vitamin D rich milk and fermented foods, like yogurt and cheese have been proven to reduce the effects and prevent periodontitis (inflammation of the gums, one of the most common diseases caused by harmful bacteria found in the mouth).
Foods that Naturally Strengthen Teeth
Foods that strengthen teeth can include:
- Hard cheese: Casein, a milk protein found in cheese, as well as calcium has been shown to reduce the loss of minerals from tooth enamel and strengthen teeth and gums.
- Fish: Fatty fish, like mackerel, salmon, trout, tuna and eel are rich in vitamin D. Vitamin D not only supports good bone health, but a lack of it can lead to dry mouth which can contribute to cavities, bad breath, and gum disease.
- Raisins: Contrary to a long-trusted belief that raisins cause cavities, a recent study has found the popular fruit snack may actually prevent them. These compounds found in raisins suppress the growth of bacteria associated with cavities and gum disease. Though this food is considered sticky, and it has been suggested by many to avoid “sticky” foods, this study also determined that raisins only stick to your teeth for about 5 minutes, after that most remnants are washed away by saliva and swallowed.
- Leafy greens: Full of calcium, fiber, antioxidants and vitamins, leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and Swiss chard combat cavities and strengthen teeth. They usually require a lot of chewing to break down, generating saliva that cleans and rinses your teeth while neutralizing acid.
- High-fiber beans: Not a fan of leafy greens, but looking for the same oral health benefits? Try high-fiber beans.
- Cacao: High in disease-fighting catechins and antioxidants, cacao is great for teeth because it fights cavities, plaque and tooth decay. Cacao also contains a compound called CBN, which helps to harden your enamel. When choosing cocoa to benefit your oral health, it is best to nibble on cocoa nibs, though most people will find this unpleasant. The second best option is dark chocolate containing less than six to eight grams of sugar per serving with 70% cocoa or more.
Foods that Naturally Whiten Teeth
Foods that whiten teeth can include:
- Strawberries: Malic acid, found in strawberries acts as a natural whitener, removing surface stains on teeth.
- Pineapple: A study found that toothpaste containing bromelain, and enzyme found in pineapples, was significantly more effective at removing tooth stains than the standard toothpaste. However, there has not been a follow-up study proving that eating pineapple has the same effect.
- Seeds and nuts: The abrasive texture of sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, and cashews work to help remove surface stains on teeth. Think of it as exfoliating stains from your teeth.
- Onions: These won’t help your breath, but the sulfur compounds keep plaque from building up on your teeth (plus you are probably more likely to brush after eating them). The catch is this only works when eating them raw.
- Apples, carrots, celery: The high water content of these foods increases saliva production. The extra saliva washes away bacteria that can lead to discolorations on the teeth.
- Apple cider vinegar: Used for centuries as a disinfectant and natural cleaning product, the main property of apple cider vinegar, acetic acid, effectively kills bacteria. The antibacterial properties of apple cider vinegar make it useful for cleaning and whitening teeth. Vinegar can have the potential to erode the enamel on teeth making them softer, so use mindfully. Do not use this technique every day. To use as a mouthwash, dilute with water and swish around your mouth for several minutes, then spit out. Make sure to rinse your mouth out with water afterwards to eliminate any negative effects on your teeth and gain some pearly-whites.
- Baking soda: Try brushing with baking soda. Baking soda acts like a bleaching agent on teeth. This natural ingredient scrubs off plaque and surface stains. However, baking soda can have the potential to erode the enamel on teeth making them softer, so use mindfully. Do not use this technique every day.
- Broccoli: High fiber, coarse foods act as a scrubbing agent for your teeth.
- Water: Drinking water not only keeps you hydrated but can keep dark pigmented foods and drinks from staining your teeth. Sip and swish between things like glasses of wine and coffee. Opt for flat water over sparkling; bubbles can erode the enamel and harm teeth.
- Milk and yogurt: Dairy products like milk and yogurt contain lactic acid and calcium, which not only strengthen teeth but whiten them too.
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