Dental health is a key part of your general health. Like our bodies need nutrients and care, so do our mouths. Here’s a list of vitamins and minerals that help keep teeth and gums healthy and where you can ﬁnd them.
- Calcium (yogurt, milk, cheese)
- Phosphorous (egg, beef, chicken, turkey, halibut, bread)
- Vitamin A (liver, pumpkin, carrots, sweet potato, mango, spinach, broccoli)
- Vitamin C (citrus fruits, cantaloupe, strawberries, tomatoes, cabbage)
- Vitamin D (trout, mackerel, salmon, tuna, egg yolk, milk)
- Omega-3 fats (certain vegetable oils, walnuts, ﬂaxseeds and soy products, seafood, and ﬁsh oils)
- Fluoride (water, toothpaste, oral rinses)
Food and Your Teeth
Calcium (with help from phosphorous and vitamin D) is the main component of teeth and bones. It’s what keeps them strong. Vitamin A is necessary for the formation of tooth enamel. Vitamin C is essential for healthy gums. Phosphorus is stored in the teeth and bones. It is instrumental in helping your body balance and absorb calcium and magnesium. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay. In children, it works with calcium and phosphorous to help strengthen enamel. In older adults, it helps restore and harden enamel. If you want to know if there is ﬂuoride in your water, contact your local health unit.
Snacking throughout the day, especially on sugary treats and drinks, constantly bathes your mouth in sugar. This creates a perfect environment for bacteria. If you do need a snack choose tooth-friendly foods like cheese, nuts, fruit, or raw vegetables.
Bacteria feed on sugars in your mouth. The more sugar you eat, the higher your risk of tooth decay. But there are tricks to eating treats.
Eat sweets at mealtimes rather than between meals. You’re likely to eat less of them. There’s also more saliva in your mouth from eating a meal to help wash the sugar from your teeth. Avoid hard candies. They bathe your mouth in sugar for a long period of time and they can also chip or crack teeth if bitten on. Be careful of chewy candies and dried fruit. They stick to teeth and can even pull out dental work like ﬁllings. Watch for hidden sugars in food. Food that is high in carbohydrates, like pasta, breaks down to sugar. Read the labels carefully. There are many alternate names for sugar, such as fructose and dextrose. Be mindful of every teaspoon of sugar you put in your coffee or tea. It adds up!
Some drinks and snacks have a low PH level, which means they are more acidic. The acid lingers in your mouth and strips away protective minerals. This can soften the surface of your teeth and makes them more vulnerable to damage. It can also lead to tooth sensitivity. The big offenders are fruit juices, sports drinks and carbonated drinks, such as pop.
Neutralize the acid in your mouth is by swishing with ﬂat water. Eating a piece of cheese or drinking some milk can also cut down on lingering acid Wait at least 30 minutes after eating before brushing. That’s when there’s less acid in your mouth and your enamel has re-hardened. Choose water. The combination of sweetness and acidity in sports and energy drinks can lead to tooth decay and dental erosion. Talk to your dentist if you have any questions about nutrition and dental health.