Brushing and flossing regularly remain your best bets when it comes to maintaining good oral health, but incorporating some specific foods into your diet can also help improve your oral hygiene. Try integrating some of these teeth-friendly foods into your regimen to keep your smile bright and your gums healthy.
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They may be bright red, but malic acid, a chief enzyme in strawberries, is proven to naturally remove stains on your teeth by acting as an astringent to remove surface discoloration. According to Beverly Hills, CA, cosmetic dentist Laurence Rifkin, DDS, malic acid is also shown to scrub your teeth while at the same time removing its stains. Also a good source of vitamin C, strawberries effectively aid in the clearing of plaque from your teeth. While it’s no replacement for a bleaching treatment at your dentist’s office, try mashing a large strawberry and then rub it on your teeth with your finger for about a minute for a quick whiten. Rinse, then floss to remove seeds.
An apple’s crunchiness strengthens gums while its high water content increases saliva production. Saliva neutralizes the acids formed by cavity-causing bacteria. It then combines with the apple’s organic fibers to naturally clean teeth and remove bacteria, acting almost as a toothbrush as you chew.
Although not the first snack most would think to munch on, onions can be quite beneficial to your chompers. Onions contain powerful antibacterial sulfur compounds and are colorless, so they wont cause surface stains on your teeth. Research suggests they are most powerful when eaten freshly peeled and raw. And since our immediate reaction after eating one is to run and brush our teeth—it’s a surefire way to get whiter, healthier teeth. Don’t like onions? Garlic also contains these sulfur compounds.
These crunchy vegetables won’t get stuck to your teeth, which means they won’t cause surface stains. Based on a study published in the The European Journal of Dentistry, the iron in broccoli may also help form an acid-resistant film on teeth. After exposure to an acid-based drink like soda, enamel erodes half as quickly with this film’s protection. Try adding some raw broccoli to your next meal or snack—the florets will gently scrub the surface of the teeth, giving them a swift and natural midday brush.
Drink as much water as you can to keep your mouth hydrated and lips moist since dry mouth can cause unpleasant breath. Water also contains fluoride, a mineral that protects against tooth erosion and is found in some toothpastes and mouthwashes. Sipping water and swishing it around in between sips of dark pigmented food or drinks like coffee or wine is a good way to prevent staining. Wilmette, IL, cosmetic dentist Craig S. Kohler, DMD suggests some alternatives to these dark pigmented drinks including white tea, orange juice and sparkling water. Aim to drink six 8-ounce glasses of water throughout the day to keep your gums (and entire body) hydrated and to stimulate saliva.
Chewing parsley or mint leaves after a pungent meal will help you maintain sweet-smelling breath. Along with chlorophyll, which has antibacterial properties that kill germs to freshen breath, these herbs contain monoterpenes, volatile substances that travel quickly from your bloodstream to your lungs, where their odors are released via your breath.
Otherwise known as Japanese horseradish, wasabi not only provides the “zing” to your sushi—it also protects your teeth. Wasabi contains compounds called isothiocyanates that are shown to inhibit the growth of Streptococcus mutans, the bacteria that causes cavities. Try incorporating a teaspoon of wasabi paste into your next meal or salad dressing to help protect your teeth from cavities.
Shiitake mushrooms have long been known for boosting immune response, but recent research reveals they can protect teeth as well. A study by the Pediatric Caries Research Program discovered that Lentinan, a sugar found in these mushrooms, prevents mouth bacteria from growing and thus from creating plaque.
Green tea contains substances that kill the bacteria in your mouth that then turn sugar into plaque, which is a sticky mass of bacteria, sugars, proteins and fats that produces cavity-causing acid when it comes in contact with sugary or starchy foods. Because the natural antioxidant compounds found in green tea prevent plaque from accumulating, your risk of cavities and bad breath are also reduced. Additionally, a study found that a daily cup of green tea significantly lowered Japanese men’s risk of developing gum disease. The polyphenols in black tea can also help destroy the growth of bacteria that cause bad breath.
Researchers in Japan, who published their findings in the Journal of Periodontology, carefully analyzed the diets of roughly 1,000 adults and found that those who incorporated the highest amounts of dairy—specifically yogurt and yogurt type drinks—had the healthiest gums. Studies show that probiotics, the good bacteria, found in yogurt may be responsible for protecting gums. A 2005 study also found that yogurt can stop the growth of bad breath-causing bacteria.