You brush your teeth three times a day. You floss each night.
But then, admit it, you down a soda or you snack on a candy bar, undoing all that hard work and exposing your teeth to long-lasting harm.
Because when it comes to oral health, the No. 1 thing you can do to keep your teeth and gums strong is to watch what you eat.
“It’s more important than brushing; it’s more important than fluoride,” says Dr. Steven Freeman, a dentist and author of the book Why Your Teeth Might Be Killing You. “It’s even more important than visiting the dentist.”
The reason: Almost all the problems that occur in the mouth are the result of bacteria, Freeman says. Bacteria causes cavities as well as gum disease, and the main food source for bacteria also happens to be prevalent in just about everything we consume, from bread, to sauces to energy drinks.
That would be sugar.
“It’s difficult to avoid sugar, but you need to stay away from it as much as possible,” Freeman says.
Here’s what he does recommend your diet include so that your smile stays healthy and bright. Some of these may not be surprising. At least one might be:
- Vegetables. The hard, leafy greens and broccoli may be difficult to chew, but they are jam packed with vitamins and minerals that can help you maintain healthy teeth and gums. “As a bonus, they also help clean your teeth while you are chewing them,” Freeman says.
- Salmon and dairy products. Salmon is useful for oral health because it contains vitamin D, which improves calcium absorption. “I know some people are against dairy in their diet, but the calcium in dairy products is essential to maintain strong teeth and bones that support the teeth,” Freeman says.
- Citrus. Vitamin C helps support the gums and ligaments around your teeth. “This is why the British navy in the 19th century had lime and lemon trees on their ships, because the sailors’ teeth kept falling out without a constant source of vitamin C.
- Sugar-free gum. No need to do a double take on this one. Freeman says that sugar-free gum, while not exactly a nutritious alternative to kale and oranges, does have its advantages. The gum stimulates saliva and saliva has anti-cavity properties. Gum also helps remove plaque from your teeth.
“Of course you still want to go to the dentist for regular checkups,” Freeman sayd. “This can help spot cavities when they are smaller and catch gum disease at its earliest stages.”
Dr. Freeman’s advice can be found on his website, www.DrStevenFreeman.com.