We’ve all been told by our dentist, our parents, and even television and magazine ads to eat more greens and avoid sugar if we can healthy, white smiles. But with an onslaught of do’s and don’ts, it’s sometimes difficult to discern which foods are actually good for your mouth and which are truly the worst for your oral health. If you think you know the most and least dentist-recommended foods, read on–the truth might surprise you.
Top 3 Worst Foods for Your Teeth
Okay, this one probably didn’t surprise you. The American Dental Association points out hard candies as one of the absolute worst foods for your overall oral health. Not only can they lead to cavities and tooth decay, but excessive sugar can actually cause chips in your teeth. Instead, try chewing sugarless gum, which can pack nearly as much flavor without the risk of sugar.
Chewing on ice is one of the least talked-about habits and perhaps one of the most damaging to your teeth. It seems harmless–it’s just frozen water and doesn’t carry any sugar or acid–but chewing on ice can be a dangerous gamble. Biting down on any hard food can damage your teeth, but some ice is thicker than others, and you can never know whether one crunch is going to crack your enamel or leave a large chip in your tooth.
Sticky or Crunchy Foods
You may have been warned against snacks like caramel, popcorn, or peanut butter when you had braces, but they’re not so great for your mouth post-bracket, either. Sticky and crunchy foods are grouped because of their mutual tendency to stay with your teeth longer than other foods. After you eat, saliva washes away food remnants, preventing tartar buildup and tooth decay. Starchy foods, like potato chips, or sticky foods, like dried fruits, can cause additional damage because they’re more resilient in staying glued to your teeth.
Top 3 Best Foods for Your Teeth
You may have been told to cut back on sugary and acidic foods, including some fruits, but apples are far and away from the most important exception to this guideline. Fruits like apples–along with some veggies, like carrots and celery–are high in fiber and water and can simulate lightly brushing your teeth (although this doesn’t mean you can skip your fluoride toothpaste routine). Eating apples stimulate saliva production in your mouth, which helps keep plaque from building up on your teeth and can prevent tooth decay. Apples are often recommended at the end of a meal as a way to keep your teeth as clean as possible in between your normal brushing habits; they’re a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth while simultaneously preventing tooth decay.
Yogurt and Cheese
Think of cheese and yogurt as milk you can chew; like their liquid dairy counterpart, cheese and yogurt are high in calcium and protein, strengthening tooth enamel. Eating cheese raises the pH, which drops the acidity level in your mouth, lowering your risk of tooth decay. Yogurt contains probiotics, which help with your digestion and push out “bad bacteria” in your mouth, helping keep your teeth from developing plaque.
In addition to being great “superfoods,” leafy greens contain an amalgam of vitamins and minerals essential for your oral health. They bring calcium, which helps protect your tooth enamel, as well as B vitamins that can provide a variety of health benefits and have been shown to help treat gum disease in pregnant women. Unlike apples, which are best left whole or cut in slices since their fibrous texture helps clean your teeth, leafy greens in nearly any form can provide oral benefits. Try some spinach in a smoothie for a delicious health boost.