Eat and Drink for a Beautiful Smile by WebMD Feature from "Prevention" Magazine By Denise Fole
A few simple changes to your diet can help keep your teeth
healthy for life
You brush, you floss, you see your dentist, but do you eat with
your oral health in mind?
"We all know excellent nutrition helps build an excellent body,"
says Paula Shannon Jones, DDS, spokesperson for the Academy of
General Dentistry. "So it follows that whatever you eat affects
your teeth and gums, too."
And it's not just the usual suspects like sugar that may be
harmful. Some surprising--even healthy--foods can cause cavities,
while others can help protect you from decay, gum disease, and even
bad breath. Here, how to tailor your diet for optimal dental
Eat carbs at mealtimes A handful of potato chips or even a whole
wheat roll can be just as damaging to your teeth and gums as a
chocolate chip cookie. All carbohydrates break down into simple
sugars, which are ultimately converted by bacteria in the mouth
into plaque, a sticky residue that is the primary cause of gum
disease and cavities. Carb-based foods such as breads and crackers
tend to have "a chewy, adhesive texture," making it easier for them
to get caught between teeth or under the gum line, where bacteria
can then accumulate, says Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, a
spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Have carbs at
mealtimes rather than as a snack: When you eat a larger amount of
food, you produce more saliva, which helps wash food particles
Drink tea Black and green teas contain polyphenols, antioxidant
plant compounds that prevent plaque from adhering to your teeth and
help reduce your chances of developing cavities and gum disease.
"Tea also has potential for reducing bad breath because it inhibits
the growth of the bacteria that cause the odor," explains Christine
D. Wu, PhD, associate dean for research at the University of
Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, who has conducted several
studies on tea and oral health. Many teas also contain fluoride
(from the leaves and the water it's steeped in), which helps
protect tooth enamel from decay.
Sip with a straw Most sodas, sports drinks, and juices contain
acids, such as citric and phosphoric, that can erode dental
enamel--even if they're diet or sugar-free versions. Sipping acidic
drinks through a straw positioned toward the back of your mouth
limits their contact with your teeth and helps preserve the enamel,
says a study in the British Dental Journal.
Increase your C intake "Vitamin C is the cement that holds all
of your cells together, so just as it's vital for your skin, it's
important for the health of your gum tissue," says Jones. People
who consumed less than 60 mg per day of C (8 ounces of orange juice
or one orange contains more than 80 mg) were 25% more likely to
have gum disease than people who took in 180 mg or more, according
to a study of over 12,000 US adults conducted at the State
University of New York University at Buffalo.
Eat 800 mg of calcium a day People who do are less likely to
develop severe gum disease, says a recent study by the Buffalo
researchers. The reason: About 99% of the calcium in your body is
in your bones and teeth. Dietary calcium--available in foods like
cheese, milk, and yogurt--strengthens the alveolar bone in the jaw,
which helps hold your teeth in place. The recommended amount is
1,000 mg per day for women younger than 50 and 1,200 mg for those
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