We all know that brushing, flossing, and mouthwash are important for a healthy mouth and gums, but many of us are probably unaware that in order to maintain a healthy mouth there are certain foods and even drinks that you can start adding to your diet that will do wonders for you and your oral care. A healthy mouth starts with a healthy variety of foods.
Green tea contains complex compounds called “catechins” that can fight inflammation and actually control bacterial infections. It’s true! For example, one Japanese study found that men who drink green tea regularly have less occurrence of periodontal disease, as compared to infrequent tree drinkers. And another Japanese study showed that for both men and women, drinking one or more cups of tea per day was correlated with less tooth loss later in life. The antimicrobial “catechins” may in fact account for the oral health benefits associated with green tea, but as of now, further study is needed. What we do know for sure, however, is that green tea consumption is good for oral health, period.
Vitamin C is very important for the overall health of delicate gum tissue because vitamin C helps to prevent collagen from breaking down. Without collagen, gums become extra tender, and thus susceptible to periodontal disease. Kiwis and strawberries have the highest concentration of vitamin C, but citrus fruits also boast good numbers. These fruits also do double duty because of their astringency, which may help to reverse discoloration caused by commonly consumed beverages like coffee and wine.
Nuts and seeds are a great source of plant-based protein, and they pack in powerful teeth-healthy micronutrients such as phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and most importantly, calcium! Calcium is of course essential for strong bones and teeth, and dietary calcium may actually contribute to tooth remineralization. The nuts highest in calcium are almonds and Brazil nuts. Sesame seeds are incredibly high in calcium as well.
Onions especially when eaten raw, boast powerful bacteria-busting prowess thanks to their antimicrobial sulfur-containing compounds. Raw onion slivers can be eaten on sandwiches or in salads.
Shiitakes contain lentinan, a natural sugar that may help to prevent gingivitis. Gingivitis is gum inflammation, characterized by redness, swelling, and possibly even bleeding, often caused by a build-up of bacterial biofilm. Recent studies show that antibacterial compounds like lentinan specifically target these biofilm-making microbes. In fact, they’re so precise that they kill cavity-causing bacteria while leaving the other, non-harmful bacteria completely unaffected.
Often referred to as “dental detergents” these water-rich fruits and veggies act by stimulating saliva production, which keeps oral bacteria in check. These high-fiber foods also have a scrubbing effect, literally cleansing the surface of your teeth as you eat, and working to brush the bacteria away. Chewing these foods will disturb and dislodge newly formed dental plaque, preventing it from ever forming.
While water fluoridation, or systemic fluoride, is the number one, cost-effective way to prevent tooth decay and has been shown to reduce caries between 50-70%, still 30% of communities in the United States do not have fluoride in their public sources of water. Children’s dental health depends less on what they eat and more on how often they eat it. About 90 percent of all foods contain sugars or starches that enable bacteria in dental plaque to produce acids. This attack by bacterial acid, lasting 20 minutes or more, can lead to loss of tooth minerals and to cavities.