Teeth are one of the first things we notice in other people, and they’re important for many things, from expressing ourselves with a smile to chewing our food for good nutrition. The health of our teeth doesn’t always get as much recognition as other parts of the body, but it should!
Here are ways you can ensure those pearly whites are getting what they need to stay healthy for years to come.
#1 Snack Smart
Common refined and carb-rich snacks like potato chips, cereals, crackers and breads can easily stick to our teeth as they break down in our mouths. This plaque and other food debris sit on your teeth throughout the day, which can produce acids that are bad for tooth enamel.
To avoid this damage, avoid snacking too much throughout the day and switch to healthy snacks like these:
- Grab ‘n go veggies: Celery, apple slices or baby carrots can actually help minimize plaque buildup. Vegetables that you have to chew a lot, such as leafy greens, also help you make more saliva, which is also good for your teeth.
- Strawberries: They contain malic acid, an acid that is actually good for your teeth and even acts as a natural whitener. Other fresh fruits are good choices too, such as oranges, pineapples, apples, pears or grapefruits.
- Cheese: Cheese contains casein, a protein that has been shown to help repair tooth enamel damage.
- Almonds: Many nuts and seeds are great for health, but almonds are best for teeth because they provide a nice dose of protein and calcium (great for teeth and bones) with very little sugar.
#2 Drink Smart
Sodas (including diet sodas) are one of the worst choices for teeth. They not only contain high amounts of sugar, but also a high amount of acid; a recipe for tooth damage, decay and increased sensitivity.
The same goes for sports drinks, energy drinks and processed fruit juices. Much like with candies, the sugar in these drinks encourages the collection of bacteria in our mouths that leads to damage.
While there may be health benefits of drinking coffee or wine, neither is doing any favors for your chompers. Coffee can cause dry mouth and a reduction in saliva, increasing the chance of tooth decay. If you add sugar to your coffee, that just increases the risk. Wine contains tannins, chromogen (the substance that gives red wine its color), and acid, all of which can lead to stains.
You can still enjoy coffee or wine, just be sure to counteract the effects by drinking and swishing with water throughout the day. Chewing a sugar-free, all-natural gum can help, too.
Drinks that won’t hurt your teeth include water (plain or with a squeeze of citrus), milk, or herbal teas. Your teeth and health will thank you for cutting out the other options.
#3 Avoid Candies and Cough Drops
You’ve probably already heard that eating a lot of sugar can cause cavities. Candies are no exception. In fact, they’re worse because they can stick to teeth and coat them in sugar. That sugar can get stuck in between your teeth, causing bacteria to grow and increasing the chances of gum disease and tooth decay.
For best results, steer clear of hard candies, including sugary cough drops, jelly beans, caramels or gummy worms. Remember, the best sugar alternatives are whole foods like fruits and sweet vegetables.
#4 Don’t Smoke
We all know smoking is bad in general, and it’s terrible for teeth! Since tobacco dries out the mouth, it causes plaque buildup that can lead to gum disease. Smoking also greatly increases the risk of oral cancer. It’s just all-around a habit best stopped and replaced with something healthier.
#5 Use Scissors or a Knife … NOT Your Teeth
Ever used your teeth to open a package of chips, a piece of mail, or a bottle cap? Stop! This can actually cause fractures or chips in your teeth.
Always keep scissors or a knife around so you can avoid having to use your precious teeth as a tool.
#6 Always Brush and Floss
This one might be a given, but don’t forget to brush and floss at least twice a day. After brushing, store your toothbrush in an upright position so the bristles stay dry and don’t grow bacteria. And don’t forget to brush your tongue, which also helps fight bacteria buildup in your mouth!
The Bottom Line
We might not think too much about our teeth from day-to-day, but they’re an important part of us. Taking good care of them means good oral health and less chance of disease down the road.