As far back as early civilization, humans have understood the importance of healthy teeth. It was a status symbol — a person with white, straight teeth (most of them, anyway) was seen as someone who had the means to care for their oral health.
This stereotype has continued through millennia, and today, we unconsciously use a person’s smile as one of the first things we notice about them. But now we understand that dental health depends on factors like genetics, access to medical care, diet, and exercise.
You can’t do anything about your genetics, but you can control how often you see the dentist. In between check-ups, here are some tips to help you improve your teeth health with diet and exercise.
1. Eat Dental-Friendly Foods
You already know that some foods are better than others when you’re trying to reach certain goals. As an example, someone trying to lose weight is likely to stay away from refined (empty) carbs and sugary sweets. Instead, they’ll fill up with unprocessed carbs containing essential nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
The same idea applies to dental health. When you want to improve the nutrition of your enamel and carbs, there are some meals to avoid and some to purposely add to your plate. Let’s start with the things you can confidently enjoy in your diet and why they’re teeth-healthy.
Fighting Plaque and Tartar With Food
Your mouth is full of germs, and it’s okay. These bacteria are a natural part of the body’s system. The only problem is that if they’re left to their own devices, these microorganisms breed and thrive, causing plaque, which brings on tooth decay and gum disease.
Look at your teeth closely in a mirror, and feel the surfaces with your tongue. If you notice a filmy, sticky, shiny layer, that’s plaque. It’s nearly invisible. You can only see it because those teeth with plaque buildup look different from the others. They may appear a little wetter or glossier.
When you already have plaque on your teeth, and then it comes into contact with sugars and starches, the result forms acids that attack the enamel and soft tissue in your mouth. Over time, these attacks destroy the hard enamel, causing cavities and tooth decay.
But with the right foods and dental health routine, you can fight plaque buildup. Arm yourself with these bacteria-fighting foods each day for improved teeth health:
- Fiber-loaded fruits and vegetables to clean your teeth and gums with increased saliva flow.
- Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and plain yogurt. The minerals in these items, including calcium and phosphates, restore enamel strength.
- Sugar-free chewing gum. If you must chew something, choose gum, and make sure it has no sugars in it! Avoid hard objects, sugary gum, and overly sticky substances.
- Sugarless green and black teas. Teas have polyphenols in them, which kill bacteria or prevent them from multiplying. However, the key is to drink your tea without adding sweeteners. Pro tip: Use water with fluoride to steep your tea for extra-friendly dental health.
In addition to these foods, any other ways that you can add fluoride is beneficial. Check the ingredients first. If the product has fluoride and no extra sugars, enjoy it in good “teeth” health!
2. Avoid Dental Enemies
Now for the things to stay away from if you want your teeth to get or stay healthy. These are the foods and beverages that encourage plaque buildup. This doesn’t mean you can never eat them again. However, if you do, be sure to brush your teeth well after indulging.
Dental enemy foods and drinks to avoid include the following:
- Sticky sweet, like caramel, lollipops, and sugary gum. As a rule of thumb, if you must eat candy or dessert, aim for those that are chewed, swallowed, and washed off the teeth with saliva quickly, like plain milk or dark chocolate.
- Refined starches that stay stuck between your teeth. You know the feeling that comes from eating a little too much bread or too many chips. You have to use your tongue to clear the leftover particles off the roof of your mouth. The debris stays tucked away in hidden places, inviting bacteria growth.
- Soft drinks with carbonation. These beverages are full of sugar and are one of the leading causes of too much sugar in young children and teenagers, right behind candy and other sweets. Carbonated drinks typically have citric and phosphoric acids that erode enamel, too.
As a side note, another way microorganisms thrive in your mouth is through your dental appliances. If an oral appliance like a retainer or night guard is part of your routine, brush it clean twice a week, and use a dental ultrasonic cleaner at least twice monthly.
3. Exercise For Teeth Health
You know that exercise keeps your body in shape, but did you know it can be good for your teeth, too?
When you work out and stay hydrated throughout your exercise routine, it increases the saliva flow in your mouth, boosts blood circulation, and improves your overall physical fitness.
Studies show that people who have never smoked and engage in regular physical activity are 54% less likely to end up with gum disease. Occasional exercise is still advantageous, lowering this risk by 33%.
If your teeth are on the border between healthy and unhealthy, or you want to keep them in good shape, you may not need expensive dental restorations and appliances. Instead, you can improve your teeth health with diet and exercise by following these three tips!