February is National Dental Health Month, which is a great time to talk to kids about how healthy teeth are an important part of overall health. Establishing good oral hygiene and eating habits at an early age are critical to maintaining good oral health throughout life. Eating certain foods, in addition to brushing and flossing, might also help to ensure a healthy smile!
Foods rich in calcium and phosphorus help rebuild the minerals found in tooth enamel after being removed by acids in your mouth. Milk, nuts, cheeses, and leafy greens are some of the foods rich in calcium. Foods rich in phosphorus include chicken, fish, other meats, and eggs.
Tea (black and green) and cranberries contain compounds that slow the growth of bacteria in the mouth and may help reduce the stickiness of the plaque. In fact, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago found that participants in a study who rinsed their mouth with black tea for one minute 10 times a day had less plaque buildup.
Crunchy foods can act like nature’s toothbrush. All that chewing of cucumbers, apples, pears, and carrots, for example, may loosen plaque. Most of these fruits and vegetables also have a high water content. When eaten, they create saliva in the mouth and wash away food particles.
Sugarless gum can actually be good for your teeth. Chewing helps loosen foods that become stuck in teeth and creates saliva that neutralizes mouth acids. But beware if chewing gum creates jaw pain.
Acidic foods, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes should be eaten with other foods and drinks to minimize the acid from them. Milk is thought to neutralize some of the acid created in the mouth. Drinking a glass of milk after a sugary treat like a chocolate cupcake may even protect the teeth. But don’t think adding milk to sugary cereal has the same effect. Milk combined with sweetened cereal just becomes syrupy and sweetened itself, which is not good for teeth.
Remember, it is also important to care for teeth and gums by taking the following steps:
- Brush your teeth for two minutes at least twice a day.
- Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
- Floss at least once a day.
- Visit your dentist twice a year for check-ups and cleanings.