written by: Sandra Senzon, R.D.H. and Linda Morel   |   The Tooth Fairy Show

While you have been visiting dentists since childhood, by now your teeth have been drilled and filled multiple times to prevent the spread of decay. They may have been rescued by root canal or crowns. Your gums have been treated too.

Occasionally a dentist or hygienist has reviewed how to brush your teeth and care for your gums to avoid future problems. But has any dental professional ever mentioned what foods you should be eating – or avoiding – keeping your mouth in peak condition?

You’ve heard the buzzwords, “You are what you eat.” But your teeth and gums can vouch for their veracity. They are the first body parts to contact your food selections … whether they are frozen Snickers bars or lettuce at a salad bar.

In their role as defensive linemen, teeth and gums are under stress, chomping anything from lobster claws to rock candy. While you swear you never splash them with acid, you’d be surprised. Coffee is loaded with acid, as is sugar once it hits saliva. Did you know that acid eats away at tooth structure? It etches into the pearly white enamel that protects teeth, causing decay. While you never thought of it before, everything you eat is either helping or hurting the life expectancy of your teeth. They are profoundly affected by what you choose to chew.

Below are lists of foods to select or avoid, based on their impact on teeth and gums. Some are obvious-but others may shock you. Milk is not the rich source of calcium your mother always swore it was. When heated above 150 degrees Fahrenheit during the pasteurization process, milk loses most of its calcium.

The following pages describe the best of foods and the worst of foods … and those in between. While eating habits rarely change overnight, don’t forget that every journey of 10,000 miles started with just one step – or in this case, one bite of food friendly to teeth and gums.

Eat All You Want

FRESH FRUIT & FRUIT JUICE

: A great source of vitamins, fresh fruit and juice are healthier than preserved fruit of my kind. Frozen and canned fruit are swimming in sugar, rendering them desserts. In dried fruit, sugar has become highly concentrated, threatening teeth and gums. When drinking fruit juices, select ones that contains no added sugar, preferably made from fresh fruit.

People suffering from tooth decay or gum tissue breakdown may be vitamin C deficient. Oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, and kiwis are fruits rich in vitamin C.

Drink orange juice that is fortified with calcium, because the interaction between the two promotes vitamin C absorption and adds calcium to your diet.

Certain fruits, such as apples, are alkaline and, therefore, balance acid in the mouth and body. Their coarse texture also cleanses teeth naturally. With a generous amount of calcium, apples are abundant in vitamins that promote strong cellular structure in gum tissue. To protect gums, always slice into wedges, before eating.

Also creating an alkaline reaction in the mouth and body, strawberries, kiwis, and citrus fruits strengthen connective tissue in gums, encouraging them to adhere to teeth.

With high magnesium content, green grapes alkalinize the blood, and strengthen gum tissue. The same is true of red and black grapes, but they have a downside – they stain teeth.

Bananas are a wholesome food, which are kind to sore gums and mouths recovering from scalings & surgery.

VEGETABLES

: Rich in vitamins that strengthen gum tissue, vegetables also provide minerals enhancing existing minerals in teeth and law bones.

It is vital to maintain law bones in peak condition, because the roots of teeth are anchored in law bone. Should that bone shrink mid resorb, your teeth will loosen and become in danger of falling out. Chewing raw carrots develops the law bone in children.

Cucumbers are a cooling alkaline food, which tames a mouth overheated from acid in coffee and sugar.

With high calcium content, green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, beet tops, parsley, celery, and kale promote strong teeth and bone.

Many vegetables can be made into juices too. Buy a juicer or visit juice bars. Eating vegetable soup is a satisfying way to consume many vegetables at once.

BEANS

: Coming in a wide variety of sizes, colors, and textures, beans are high in protein and strengthen gum tissue. Served in Japanese restaurants, miso soup (made from soy beans), naturally nourishes gum tissue, while relaxing it too.

DAIRY PRODUCTS

: Friendly to teeth and gums, dairy products contain protein and calcium. Yogurt also fights oral yeast infections. But read labels. Many yogurts are sweetened with sugar.

In addition, cheese contains phosphorous, which builds bones. But don’t binge on cheese for the sake of dental health, because many cheeses irritate gums. Roquefort goat milk cheese contains fluorine. Similar to fluoride, fluorine builds jaw bones and teeth, especially in children.

Although most of the calcium in milk has been destroyed during pasteurization, soy milk, found in health food is a calcium-rich alternative.

TEA: Even though it’s acidic, tannic acid heals irritated gum tissue. Without tannic acid, these herbal teas are soothing to gums: chamomile tea, green tea, and Echinacea tea.

WATER: You can never be too rich, too thin – or drink enough water. Besides flushing toxins from the system, counteracting coffee and other things you shouldn’t have swallowed water rinses the mouth and cleanses teeth tissue. For best results, drink eight glasses a day.

Foods for Thought

PASTA

: Full of starch, pasta adheres to teeth creating sticky substance that starts plaque build up, leading to problem gums. Because starch turns to sugar in saliva then heated in the mouth, pasta can promote bacteria under the gum line.

RICE

: While a nutritionally sound food, rice (like pasta contains starch) turns into plaque in the mouth leading to tartar build up and trouble. Less sticky, brown rice is a better choice.

BREAD

: After chewing, bread turns to a thick, sticky film adhering to teeth. This film hardens into plaque. The same holds true for crackers, pretzels, muffins, pizza, stuffing, biscuits, and bread posing as another food. If you can’t resist bread, eat whole wheat or whole grain breads, which cause less plaque than white bread.

BAGEL

: Because they are tough to chew, bagels carry an additional risk over other kinds of plaque breeding breads. Thick crusted breads, such as peasant bread, are equally hard on teeth and gums.

HOT SPICES

: Highly spiced foods irritate and stretch gum tissue, leaving openings for small particles to invade. Cayenne pepper is recommended by the holistic school as a bacteria killer, but it can also irritate gums mid contribute to gingivitis. The worst offenders are black pepper, hot chili peppers, hot mustard, spicy tomato sauce, and hot foods such as Indian and Mexican.

As an experiment, put hot spices in your hand, leaving a while. Watch how your hand turns red. Spices act this way in the mouth too.

If You Can’t Say No-Proceed with Caution

SUGAR

: While you know that sugar is the natural enemy of teeth, here’s why. Sugar turns to acid in the mouth. This acid attacks tooth enamel, eventually causing decay. It also imitates gum tissue and quickens plaque build up, leading to bone loss and wobbling teeth.

Sugar means any food loaded with sugar, including candy, cake, cookies, gum, ice cream, and many boxed cereals. Always read package labels, bearing in mind that glucose and corn syrup are sugar too. Avoid foods whose main ingredient (the first one listed) is sugar.

Sugar appears where it’s least expected – in ketchup, salad dressings, Worcestershire Sauce, bread, crackers, and most frozen, canned, and jarred foods, including baby food.

CRANBERRIES

: The one fruit that should be eaten sparingly, cranberries are naturally sour and must be sweetened with ton of sugar to taste palatable.

COFFEE

: With a high acidic content, coffee not only promotes tooth decay, it also burns calcium in the body, rendering it useless. Coffee stains teeth. Bacteria in the mouth adheres to stains, contributing to tarter build-up, bone recession and loose teeth. Although tea stains teeth too, it is kinder to teeth and gums.

CORN ON THE COB

: While a nutritious grain, corn has casings that lodge under gums, causing irritation. If you must sink your teeth into fresh corn, use a waterpik to flush away casings undermining gum tissue.

Check with a dental hygienist to make sure you operate your waterpik safely with teeth and delicate gum tissue in mind.

POPCORN

: Popcorn particles often wedge under the gum line. Limit consumption and keep your waterpik handy. Popcorn is as irritating as corn on the cob.

NUTS

: While nuts contain protein, small nut particles often slip between gums and teeth and need to be removed. Keep your waterpik handy.

TAFFY AND CARAMELS

: During chewing, taffy and caramels pull at the roots of teeth, encouraging them to loosen from the law bone over time. They’ve been known to dislodge fillings and crowns. They’re loaded with sugar too.

JELLYBEANS

: Like taffy and caramels, they’re sugary and delicious – but damaging to fillings, crowns, and roots.

CHEWING GUM

: If you really need to ask – gum is nothing but trouble. See Taffy, Caramels, and Jellybeans for details.

GRANOLA

: While bountiful in grains, which are good, plus dried fruits and nuts, which present hazards – many varieties of granola are held together with honey, which is full of sugar. These sticky clumps damage enamel, tugging at teeth, fillings, and crowns. After chewing, small particles can lodge under the gum line, causing irritation. Use a waterpik to flush particles away.

SODA & DIET SODA

: Acid, acid, and sugar too. If you’re smart, you’ll drink plenty of water instead.

From now on, treat your mouth to wholesome food. Every time you choose orange juice instead of orange soda or eat an apple instead of apple pie, you are protecting your beautiful smile – which makes the Toothfairy very happy!

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