Healthy Nutrition for Healthy Teeth

Reviewed by Esther Ellis, MS, RDN, LDN
big smile - Healthy Nutrition for Healthy Teeth

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Daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing are essential to a healthy smile, but did you know nutrition has an effect on your dental health, too?

Eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods from all the food groups promotes healthy teeth and gums. A balanced eating plan that includes fruits, vegetables, protein foods, grains and dairy provides essential nutrients for optimum oral health as well as overall health.

Foods for Optimum Oral Health

  • Calcium-rich foods, such as low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese, and fortified soymilk help promote strong teeth and bones. Other sources of calcium include tofu (made with calcium sulfate), canned salmon, almonds and some dark green leafy vegetables.
  • Phosphorus, a mineral found in eggs, fish, lean meat, dairy, nuts and beans is good for strong teeth.
  • Vitamin C promotes gum health, so eat plenty of sources, including citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, potatoes and spinach.

Smart snacking also can keep your mouth in good shape. Resist the urge to snack frequently — the more often you eat, especially between meals, the more likely you are to introduce acid attacks on your teeth. If you do snack, choose wisely. Forgo sugary treats such as hard or sticky candy and opt for nutritious choices such as raw vegetables, fruits, plain yogurt and popcorn. Remember to brush after snacking to keep cavities at bay. If you can't brush, rinse your mouth with water to get rid of food particles.

Caring for a baby? Avoid putting your infant, toddler or young child to bed with a bottle. Sucking on the bottle bathes the teeth and gums in liquid which can contribute to tooth decay. Only breast milk and infant formula are recommended for infants younger than 12 months. And for children one to five years of age, the amount of juice, flavored milks, and other sugar-sweetened drinks should be limited.

In addition to healthful eating, oral health problems can be prevented by practicing good oral hygiene, such as brushing teeth with fluoridated toothpaste twice a day, flossing once a day, drinking fluoridated water and seeking regular oral health care.

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