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Public Health Essentials

A place to highlight the work of the Snohomish Health District as well as share health-related information and tips. Have an idea or question? Drop us a line at SHDInfo@snohd.org.

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Jun 09

Beyond brushing: How what you eat affects your teeth

Posted on June 9, 2022 at 10:41 AM by Kari Bray

When you think of healthy teeth, you probably think of brushing and flossing. 

Both are important, but there’s more to a healthy mouth than plenty of toothpaste and floss.Vegetables

Healthy eating is one big way to have a smaller risk of oral health problems.

A nutritious diet is a benefit for your entire body. Maybe you try to eat well for the sake of your heart, your digestive system, or your energy levels. A healthy diet is great for all of that! And don’t forget that it helps keep your mouth healthy, too. 

Diet and nutrition are significant influencers for oral health. What you eat and drink can affect the development and progression of conditions such as: 

  • Caries (also known as cavities)
  • periodontal disease (the result of infections and inflammation of the gums and bone around your teeth)
  • erosion (the wearing away of a tooth’s surface)

So next time you are shopping, cooking or just snacking, think about how what you eat can impact your teeth.

What to enjoy

To nurture healthy mouths in your household, make sure you and your family are eating a rainbow of different-colored fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins such as chicken, and low-fat dairy such as milk, yogurt or cheese.

Pouring milkHere are some goodies to remember:

  • Calcium-rich foods such as low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese, and fortified soymilk help promote strong teeth and bones. Other sources of calcium include tofu (made with calcium sulfate), canned salmon, almonds, and some dark green leafy vegetables.
  • Phosphorus, a mineral found in eggs, fish, lean meat, dairy, nuts, and beans, is good for strong teeth.
  • Vitamin C promotes gum health, so eat plenty of it. Some good options for a vitamin C boost are tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, potatoes, spinach, and citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, or limes.

What to avoid

We know that access to affordable, nutritious food is vital for overall health, including healthy teeth and mouths. Lower cost foods such as chips or crackers, foods made with processed grain, or high-sugar options increase the likelihood of poor dental health outcomes. 

A diet with lots of sugar puts people at higher risk of dental caries. In fact, limiting how many sugary things you eat or drink can be just as important as brushing your teeth. 

Avoid soda or energy drinks – water is your best bet to stay hydrated, anyway. Look for reduced-sugar options to eat, too. Try tasty fresh fruits instead of candy or other sugary treats. There are ways to make your sweet tooth happy without giving it a cavity!

Frequently eating acidic food also can increase the risk of erosion, or wearing down the surface of your teeth. Healthy foods can be acidic, including some fruit or dairy products. You don’t need to cut out acidic foods entirely, but do be aware of the impact they can have on your teeth. Try to balance your diet so you don’t overdo it on the acidic foods. 

Other helpful tipsSmiling toddler

  • For infants and toddlers: Don’t let them go to bed or naptime with a bottle. Sucking on a bottle bathes the teeth and gums in liquid and can increase risk of tooth decay.
  • For children: Limit the amount of juice, flavored milk or other sweetened drinks, especially for children under the age of five.
  • For all ages: Fight the urge to snack frequently. The more often you eat, the more likely you are to introduce more acidic or sugary foods to your teeth. Snack wisely by avoiding sweet, sticky, or acidic. Instead, go for tooth-friendly foods like raw vegetables, fruits, unsweetened yogurt, or popcorn. 

More information: 

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