For years, dentists have told patients to avoid foods that can harm their oral health. However, researchers are also looking at how including beneficial foods and beverages can improve your teeth and gums. Experts from Western Dental Services, Inc., suggest including the following foods in your diet to help maintain your smile's health and beauty.
1. Sugar-Free Gum: Though most chewing gum is a sticky, sugary dental disaster, sugar-free brands containing the natural sweetener xylitol can improve dental health. "The bacteria that contribute to tooth decay, Streptococcus mutans, feed on the sucrose--the sugar--that we eat. As they multiply, the bacteria release acids that lead to tooth decay," says Dr. Louis Amendola, D.D.S., Western Dental's Chief Dental Director. "But bacteria can't digest xylitol, so they can't multiply or release the decay-causing acids. Xylitol also increases saliva and its pH level, which helps remineralize tooth enamel and fight plaque buildup," says Dr. Amendola, who keeps a steady supply of xylitol gum in his Western Dental offices.
Health food stores typically carry the gum or mints sweetened with enough xylitol to be effective. Experts suggest consuming a daily minimum of four grams of xylitol-sweetened mints or gum, preferably immediately after meals and snacks.
2. Brewed Tea: Drinking green or black tea may provide protection from several diseases, including dental cavities. Though scientists know that tea delivers naturally occurring fluoride to the mouth, they are still determining the most beneficial amounts and types of tea to drink to attain additional benefits. For example, University of Illinois at Chicago researchers found that chemical components in black tea called polyphenols inhibit the growth of glucosyltransferase, an enzyme that helps plaque adhere to tooth enamel. Tea's anti-bacterial properties also help prevent plaque from forming and weakens existing plaque and bacteria.
3. Tap Water: If your primary source of water comes from bottled or highly filtered water, you may be missing out on the protective effects of fluoridated water. According to the American Dental Association, the majority of bottled waters on the market don't contain enough fluoride to be beneficial to oral health. Further, some types of water treatment systems in homes can reduce fluoride content, potentially erasing the decay-preventing benefits of the mineral. Water in any form is kinder to your teeth, and waistline, than sugary sodas, sports drinks and many sweetened fruit juices. "The fluoridation of community water supplies helped to significantly reduce tooth decay, so it's important not to entirely abandon that source of fluoride," says Samuel H. Gruenbaum, President and Chief Executive Officer of Western Dental, a California-based company with 250 dental offices.
4. Cheese: Having cheese for dessert could be good for you. A growing body of evidence shows that consuming cheese, particularly at the end of a meal, could help prevent tooth decay and help repair tooth surfaces. Research indicates that cheese may reduce enamel demineralization, neutralize acids formed in plaque and, through increased saliva flow, flush away sugars.
5. Raw Vegetables: Sometimes called "nature's toothbrush," crunchy, crispy fresh fruits and vegetables such as carrots, apples and cucumbers help protect teeth by stimulating the gums and boosting the production of saliva, which helps flush away sugars and food particles. Fibrous, fresh fruits and vegetables help reduce the buildup of cavity-causing plaque and help neutralize saliva before it can erode dental enamel. In addition, carrots, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli and cantaloupe contain beta carotene and Vitamin C, which are essential to healthy teeth and gums.
SOURCE Western Dental Services, Inc.