Most dental patients know to avoid acidic and sugary foods that may do permanent damage to your teeth. But what about foods that are actually good for your teeth?
Besides supplying the vitamins and minerals needed to keep teeth strong, certain foods can also clean your teeth as you eat them. These five delicious and healthy snacks are sure to please both your family and your dentist.
Whole-Grain Breads and Crackers
While brittle saltine crackers turn to mush and cling to your teeth, whole-grain breads and crackers can instead be beneficial. The dietary fiber found in grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes is famous for regulating your digestive system. Those small, tough fibers grind against your teeth as you chew, stripping away plaque and stimulating saliva production.
Grain-based foods tend to be high in sugars, particularly in processed products like white bread or cookies. Simple sugars break down quickly in the mouth, giving bacteria an easy and abundant food supply.
But whole-grain products, containing complex carbohydrates and more fiber, take longer to digest. As a result, they are less likely to cause tooth decay.
Celery is a low-calorie, fibrous plant stalk and popular snack. Its crunchy, chewy texture acts as a natural floss, scraping both the surface of your teeth and in between them.
As you chew the plant, your mouth produces extra saliva, which works to protect and repair the coating of your teeth. Celery, originally a wetland plant, is also packed with water to discourage dry mouth.
Apples and High-Fiber Fruits
Like celery, apples and other high-fiber fruits are chewy, watery, and delicious snacks with a slightly abrasive texture. While sugars and acids should be avoided, the natural sugars found in fruits are usually not concentrated enough to cause lasting damage. They are an especially useful substitute for processed, sugary snacks, such as candy.
When choosing fruits, pick high-fiber species when possible. Berries, apples, and pears contain high levels of fiber, while bananas and oranges offer slightly less.
Oranges and similar citrus fruits, however, are more acidic than most and may ultimately do more harm than good. So, you should monitor your consumption of fruits like you would any other sugary food.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, and kale are already famous "super foods". Their high fiber content makes them natural teeth cleaners, and they come loaded with antioxidants and iron.
Your body uses the calcium in dark green leaves to restore tooth enamel, repairing minor damage caused by plaque. Beta carotene, another ingredient in spinach, serves a similar role for enamel.
In recent years, there has been some concern about oxalic acid — a compound found in vegetables like spinach — and its effect on teeth. Oxalic acid is responsible for the fuzzy feeling you may notice on your teeth after eating leafy greens. While this acid does bind itself to calcium, it is already tied to the calcium in the spinach, which means spinach and similar veggies are still a great choice for families.
Nuts, Seeds, and Legumes
Nuts, seeds, and legumes are natural sources of calcium and the vitamins that bolster your teeth. Many people eat a handful of almonds between meals to keep hunger at bay. Be aware, however, that harder nuts like almonds can chip or even break a tooth without warning.
Similarly, chia or sesame seeds scrub the nooks and crannies of your teeth and increase saliva flow.
Of course, eating right is only the first step toward a healthy lifelong smile. Regular flossing and brushing, supplemented by periodic dental exams, are vital to preserving your smile and catching tooth decay early. Contact us at Jay A Hollander, DDS to schedule an exam today and give your teeth the professional attention they deserve.