How Your Diet Affects Your Teeth

Pretty much everyone understands the consequences of failing to properly care for their teeth with daily cleanings (brushing, flossing, mouthwash, etc.) and regular visits to the dentist for deeper cleanings, x-rays, and overall checkup and maintenance. The results, over time, would be decay, infection, and eventually, tooth loss. But if you think about it, cleaning is not really the issue; it's food. The reason you have to brush and go to the dentist is because the food and beverages you ingest have an impact on your teeth. And when you think about it that way, you start to realize that certain foods can be detrimental while others can actually have a positive impact on your dental health. So if you're curious as to what effect your diet has on your teeth, here are a few things you should know.

Let's start with foods that are not so great for your teeth. Pretty much anything that contains sugar, acids, and dyes can be damaging to your teeth. Sugars, both processed and natural, are affected by the bacteria in your mouth, which converts them to acid. They then wear away at the tooth enamel, leaving your teeth unprotected and open to decay. As you may have guessed, foods that contain acid (citrus fruit, for example) can have the same effect. And any foods or beverages that contain dyes have the ability to stain your teeth. The most common causes of staining actually come from natural sources: coffee, tea, and wine. But the worst offender may be cola, which has a triple whammy of sugar, acid, and chemical food dye. When you think about it that way you may be far less likely to reach for that can of Coke or Pepsi.
But what about foods that can actually help your teeth? The best bet here is dairy products. They not only do a body good, but the calcium they contain helps to build strong bones, including teeth. In actuality, your teeth tend to retain calcium, but your jawbone can lose it. So when you're getting plenty of calcium in your diet, it ensures that your teeth remain firmly intact in the jaw, ensuring that looseness and gaps (where bacteria can get a foothold) don't occur. You can get plenty of calcium by drinking milk and eating cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products (unless you are lactose intolerant or vegan, in which case there are supplements). You should, however, add vitamin D to the equation (swordfish, salmon, and eggs are good options, although you can also get it from sun exposure). In many cases, dairy products come fortified with vitamin D to make things easier.

You should also consider choosing cheese over milk. Forget the shakes with milk and whey protein concentrate and go for the snack that provides both calcium and protein in one simple package. Not only is cheese delicious, but it comes with additional benefits for your teeth. It has been shown to reduce plaque, prevent demineralization, and also raise the pH balance in the mouth, meaning that it combats the acidity of other foods. So if you just have to have a soda, at least eat some cheese afterwards. Of course, you should really consider switching to water as your main beverage. Not only is it good for your overall health, but it helps to rinse away food and bacteria when you don't have time to brush.

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