You may already know that healthy eating habits can help you avoid some of the more unpleasant procedures at the dentist's office -- but what exactly does healthy eating entail, as far as your teeth are concerned? Avoiding large quantities of sugar is an obvious first step, but it's only one aspect of proper dental nutrition. Here are some things you need to know about supporting your teeth, gums and oral tissue through smart dietary choices.
Acids Are the Enemy
Your body prefers a pH level (a degree of acidity versus alkalinity) right around the middle of the scale. Unfortunately, many of the most common foods and beverages on the American menu are acidic in nature, with a pH on the lower end of the scale. Coffee, red wine, soft drinks, certain cheeses, fruit juices, red meats and tomatoes are just a few examples. A diet heavy in these items can strip the minerals out of your teeth enamel, weakening the teeth and making them vulnerable to cavities. You can reduce this risk by shifting your menu to emphasize pure water (which has a neutral pH), fish, beans or other plant-based protein sources, and less-acidic fruits and vegetables. If you do consume acidic foods, wash them down with plenty of water
Alcohol Endangers Your Mouth
Alcohol beverages not only tend toward the acidic end of the scale, but they also have a drying effect on the body. as a result, you may end suffering from a chronically dry mouth. Saliva normally coats the teeth and helps to protect them against bacteria -- so the less saliva you're making, the more potential danger your teeth face. Bacteria can eat away at tooth enamel and cause periodical disease, an inflammatory gum condition that destroys oral tissues and can lead to tooth loss. Alcohol also raises the risk of oral cancer, so imbibe with caution if you choose to imbibe at all.
Some Sweeteners Can Actually Help Your Teeth
Your family dentist has probably already told you that sugar is bad for your teeth. What you may not know, however, is that all non-sugar sweeteners are created equal. It's true that these products won't attract dangerous bacteria the way sugar does, but their benefits often end there. One kind of non-sugar sweetener, however, actually appears to aid dental health. A substance called xylitol "starves" bacteria that feast on it by making it impossible for them to take in the sugar they need, causing the bacteria to die off. Xylitol may also help the body use calcium more efficiently, giving your tooth enamel more access to this essential mineral.
Eat and drink wisely, and you can protect your mouth for many years to come. It's definitely worth doing if only to help ensure happier trips to the dentist's office!