Jane Austen was onto something when she wrote, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that most people hate going to the dentist.”
Okay, fine–she didn’t say exactly that, but really, we can all agree that going to the dentist takes the backseat to just about everything.
I’d rather get my oil changed, stand in line at the DMV, wash every window in my house or spend an afternoon ironing my son’s bed sheets: anything to avoid sitting in that chair with sharp tools in my mouth for 45 minutes.
But, in the end, we have to go–and it doesn’t have to be as bad as you may think. Some insurance companies have a dental plan that actually rewards you for going cavity free, eating healthy foods and visiting the dentist on a regular basis.
If you’d sooner lose an arm than visit the dentist, try changing a few of your eating habits. You’ll be surprised to find that the foods you eat make a huge impact on the condition of your teeth. Healthy foods make for a healthy mouth, which in turn, makes both you and your dentist happy.
As a licensed nutritionist and personal trainer, I’m already aware of which foods are, and are not, good for our bodies. Not surprisingly, a lot of the foods that are good for our bodies are also good for our teeth. And the best part: they’re delicious!
1. Dairy Products
Cheese, milk and other dairy products like yogurt and sour cream provide calcium and phosphorus which help replenish the minerals our teeth lose to acids, whether from foods or our own bodies. You can also add fortified vegan dairy alternatives, if you don’t do the milk thing.
2. Fruits and Veggies
Foods with high water content like apples, pears and celery, help to dilute sugar and other harsh chemicals of either the foods themselves or of other foods we eat throughout the day. High water content foods also help jumpstart saliva production, which helps to clear out leftover food and break down acid. Onions contain anti-bacterial sulphur compounds which help fight against bacteria that cause cavities. Citrus fruits like tomatoes and lemons should be eaten in conjunction with a meal, to more evenly distribute the high acid content.
Protein rich foods like meat and beans contain phosphorus, which when mixed with calcium and Vitamin D are invaluable sources of natural strength for our teeth and even our bones. Keeping your teeth strong also means they’ll be less likely to decay and develop cavities.
4. Water, Tea, Milk
Beverages with little to no sugar are always great for your teeth. They help to wash away food particles, stimulate saliva flow, break down acid and keep bacteria growth to a minimum. Green Tea, unsweetened, is rich in antioxidants and helps to keep plaque from building up. Some Green Tea even contains fluoride, which is a great way to keep cavities in check. Water and milk are other healthy beverages without sugar that help keep your mouth low on bad bacteria and rid any leftover food particles.
Not so Teeth-Healthy Foods
Candy gets a pretty bad rap– as it should. Candy is basically all sugar and chemicals and doesn’t do any good for your teeth. Chewy candies like gummi bears or sour candies get stuck in all the grooves of your teeth while hard candies continually release sugar over your pearly whites. Even those chewy “fruit” snacks are vehicles for getting sugar stuck in just about every nook and cranny your mouth has to offer.
2. Sugary Drinks
Much like candy, sugary drinks such as soda, lemonade, Kool-aid and even “fruit juices” are like giving your teeth a continuous bath in sugar, especially if you sip on it throughout the day.
3. Assorted Junk Foods
Chips, pretzels, fries, cookies, white bread, cakes and muffins form to your teeth and lodge themselves there indefinitely. They help promote bacteria growth which later causes cavities and unfriendly dentist visits. These foods should be eaten minimally and you should try to brush your teeth, chew sugar-free gum or drink water after.
4. Raisins and Dried Fruits
Raisins and dried fruits contain just about as much sugar as chewy and hard candies. They’re sticky and tacky, meaning they’ll cling in all those tight places that are nearly impossible to reach.
Choosing teeth-healthy eating alternatives can mean that your next visit to the dentist will be less painful than standing in a two-hour line to renew a license plate or washing 36 windows by hand. Your teeth and dental insurance provider will be happier and your dentist will thank you for it.
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by timlewisnm