National Nutrition Month is hosted each year in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The purpose of the campaign is to promote healthy eating habits. We all know how important diet and exercise are for a healthy body. But many people forget that what we eat and drink can greatly affect the health of the mouth and appearance of the smile.
Philadelphia dentist Dr. Pamela Doray has outlined the worst food choices and healthiest alternatives for healthy, attractive teeth and gums.
No surprise that coffee is on the list of worst foods for teeth, considering that it can lead to stained or discolored teeth. If you enjoy cream and sugar in your coffee or café style coffee drinks, you’re increasing your chances for tooth decay, especially if you sip these drinks throughout the day.
Healthier alternative: If you can’t pass on coffee, try drinking it black or without sugar. Also try drinking water along with your morning joe. The water will keep you hydrated and promote saliva production which naturally cleans the teeth.
Another morning staple is orange juice and citrus fruits. These foods have a combination of acid and sugar which erodes tooth enamel. Another acidic food that can cause problems is the tomato including tomato based sauces and soups.
Healthier alternative: At our Philadelphia dentist office, we advise patients that it’s OK to eat citrus as long as you rinse with water or brush right way. If you can’t do that, consider reaching for an apple instead. Biting and chewing an apple helps to keep teeth clean and bright.
3. Dried Fruits
Dried fruits may be a healthy food choice, but they’re not the best choice for healthy teeth. Dried fruits are high in sugar plus they’re sticky. This means that they adhere to teeth for a long period of time and promote tooth decay.
Healthier alternative: Fresh fruits are a better choice because they don’t stick to teeth. If you want to keep eating dried fruit, be sure to brush your teeth afterwards or chew on sugar-free gum to trap sticky particles and increase saliva production.
4. Breath Mints
You may be thinking you’re doing a good thing by sucking on breath mints between meals, but you’re actually exposing your teeth to lots of sugar over a long period of time. The sugar from breath mints and hard candies can also affect dental restorations. Read more about Nick, a 60 year old patient of Dr. Doray who had failing dental work because of a breath mint habit.
Healthier alternative: Instead of mints, chew sugar-free gum. You’ll get fresh breath plus boost saliva production to keep the teeth healthy. Be sure to look for the ADA seal on the packaging.
5. Starchy Foods
Want another reason to pass on that bag of chips with lunch? Not only do chips and breads get trapped in the contours of the teeth, starch fuels the bacteria in plaque, increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Healthier alternative: Nuts are a great alternative. Not only do they promote healthier teeth, but they provide the body with essential minerals and nutrients and help to minimize food cravings.
6. Soda or other sugared drinks
Last but not least, continual exposure to soda and other sugared drinks causes cavities and can even result in loss of enamel due to erosion.
Healthier alternative: Plain water is a better choice. It quenches thirst, hydrates your body, and is safe for your teeth.
Avoid sugar, eat more fresh foods and drink more water. Visit your dentist regularly for routine checkups and professional teeth cleaning. Dr. Doray recommends visiting at least every six months. Our comprehensive evaluations include a periodontal screening to check for gum disease as well as a thorough examination to look for signs of tooth decay, wear and instability in the temporomandibular joints (TMJ).
Following these simple guidelines will help you not only maintain a healthier lifestyle, but also healthier teeth and gums and a more attractive smile.