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Healthy nutrition for healthy teeth

A healthy diet is about more than maintaining a healthy weight. Good nutrition helps to prevent disease, and oral diseases are no exception. 

Antioxidants and other nutrients found in fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts may strengthen immunity and improve the body’s ability to fight bacteria and inflammation. All of these benefits can help protect your teeth and gums. Some foods and dietary habits even have distinct effects on the mouth’s ability to handle cavity-causing bacteria.

For example:

  • Calcium-fortified juices, milk and other dairy products are rich in calcium and vitamin D and help promote healthy teeth and bones, reducing the risk for tooth loss. Adding powdered milk to cooked dishes helps those who don’t like milk or cheese get some of the calcium they need to protect their teeth and jawbones.
  • Crisp fruits and raw vegetables, like apples, carrots and celery, help clean plaque from teeth and freshen breath. Fresh cranberries also interrupt the bonding of oral bacteria before they can form damaging plaque.
  • Antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin C, and other nutrients from fruits and vegetables help protect your gums and other tissues from cell damage and bacterial infection. Folic acid promotes a healthy mouth and supports cell growth throughout the entire body. This member of the B vitamin family is found in green leafy vegetables and brewer’s yeast.

You may already know that cavity-causing organisms feed on the sugar in foods and beverages and convert the sugar to acid, which then attacks tooth enamel and causes tooth decay. But did you know that acidic foods and drinks can wear away your enamel, leaving your teeth sensitive, cracked and discolored?

Timing is everything

A diet that promotes good oral health is not just about the foods you eat or avoid. When and how you eat is equally important.

  • Foods that take a long time to chew or that you hold in your mouth (such as cough drops) can damage teeth because they keep sugars in your mouth longer than other foods.
  • Instead of snacking on sugary or acidic foods throughout the day, eat these foods just during meal times in order to minimize the amount of time teeth are exposed to acid. In addition, the body produces more saliva to help digest larger meals, which washes away more food and helps neutralize harmful acids before they can attack teeth.

Last updated March 17, 2022

The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.