We know from the TV ads that red wine stains our teeth and sugar rots them. And it’s ingrained into our collective consciousness that we need to visit the dentist regularly. But did you know that what you eat can have a significant impact on the health of your teeth?
Dr Peter Alldritt, a dentist and chairman of the Australian Dental Association’s oral health committee, reveals the foods that can help keep your teeth strong, clean and in your mouth for the term of your natural life.
An apple is like nature’s toothbrush, removing stray bits of food and bacteria while you munch, and buffing surface stains. Like other crunchy fruit and veg, such as raw carrots, apples have a high water content, which dilutes the effects of sugars and prompts the flow of saliva, helping protect against decay.
These are a natural bleaching agent and a powerful teeth whitener, as they contain an astringent (malic acid) to help remove surface stains, and vitamin C, which whitens by clearing plaque. A known natural whitening method is to brush your teeth with a mixture of mashed strawberries blended with a pinch of baking soda, then immediately rinse with water and a swish of neutral mouthwash to wash away the natural sugar. However, Aldritt warns that the combination of abrasive baking soda and acidic strawberries can damage your enamel.
3. Citrus fruits
The high levels of vitamin C in citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons can help keep gums healthy by strengthening blood vessels and connective tissue. Vitamin C also reduces inflammation, which may prevent or slow progression ofgingivitis, an inflammation of the gums that can lead to gum disease. Moderation is key as the fruits’ high acidity levels can erode tooth enamel. Avoid brushing your teeth for an hour after eating citrus fruits to allow your saliva to neutralise this effect.
The dairy product is good for oral health because of its special anti-decay nutrients such as casein, calcium and phosphorus. Some studies have revealed that milk could even reverse damage already done to the teeth by depositing minerals back into the enamel.
Most nuts provide nutrients that help your teeth. The most notable are peanuts, almonds and walnuts, all of which contain calcium, magnesium and othervitamins and minerals essential to oral health. Nuts are also high in fibre and have a coarse texture, which helps to clean teeth. They make a healthy between-meal snack as they stimulate salivary flow and wash away plaque.
Partial to a cheese platter? Your teeth will thank you. The proteins in cheese have been shown to protect enamel and increase the mouth’s pH levels, helping to fight plaque. Cheese also stimulates saliva, protecting from acidity and decay.
7. Chewing gum
Sugar-free gum helps clean your teeth after eating and those that contain the tooth-friendly sugar alcohol xylitol can also inhibit the growth of oral bacteria.Xylitol works by making it difficult for the bacteria to stick to the surface of the teeth. Chewing gum for 15 minutes or so after meals and snacks stimulates saliva flow and neutralises the acid that occurs in the mouth after eating.