Your teeth are amazing. Their primary purpose is to grind your food so it can be digested. Your molars, the large teeth in the back of your mouth, actually have the ability to exert over 200 pounds of pressure on the foods you are eating.1 But tooth enamel can break down and when it does tooth decay can occur and lead to dental problems, including cavities, sensitivity and pain.
Keeping tooth enamel strong is especially important for older adults whose teeth have endured years of wear.
For those 65 and older, the chance of having tooth damage severe enough to require a root canal or similarly invasive procedure triples.2 The good news is that there are some simple things you can do to protect your vital tooth enamel.
Foods for Your Teeth and Overall Health
What you eat is key to strengthening your tooth enamel. You can actually strengthen weak enamel by eating more dark leafy vegetables, dairy and protein-rich foods.3 If you aren’t able to introduce more dairy products into your diet, choose other calcium-rich foods such as greens (collards, mustard, kale and bok choy), canned salmon with bones, sardines, calcium-fortified soy milk, fruit juices and cereals; blackstrap molasses and broccoli.4
Research has found eight items that should be diet staples for those wishing to keep not only their teeth healthy, but their hearts as well. They include: tea, cheese, raisins, crunchy foods (carrots, apples, cucumbers), sugarless gum, milk, cranberries and vitamin-rich foods that are high in calcium (cheese, almonds and leafy greens) and/or phosphorous (meat, eggs, fish).5
Foods with Natural Sugar
Nutrition is so important for your teeth that it is worth repeating that to maintain oral health it is necessary to eliminate as much refined sugar and acidic items as possible from your diet. Fruits and vegetables that contain natural sugar are actually good for you. In fact, although it is acidic, grapefruit has been shown to improve gum health and kiwis, limes and cranberries have been shown to kill oral bacteria.6 Remember to wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth after eating grapefruit or any acidic or sweet food as they soften enamel and brushing too soon after their consumption can actually damage your tooth enamel.
What you drink is also important. When you drink a 12-ounce can of cola, for instance, you are generally consuming 39 grams of sugar which equates to 9.75 teaspoons of sugar.7 The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar for women per day and 9 teaspoons for men.8
Daily Oral Health Practices
Flossing your teeth once a day and brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day for two minutes per session are other effective ways to strengthen tooth enamel, as is rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash. The American Dental Association (ADA) cites fluoride as “nature’s cavity fighter.” In addition to strengthening your teeth, fluoride fights acid assaults on your teeth and helps repair the early stages of tooth decay. When you brush, do so gently so that you don’t wear down the tooth enamel. Use a soft bristled brush and hold it at a 45-degree angle to your gums, moving the brush back and forth with gentle strokes.
For those who are prone to cavities or who have crowns on their teeth, toothpaste which remineralize tooth enamel can be helpful. Consult your dentist on whether you would benefit from a remineralizing toothpaste or remineralizing treatments performed in the dentist’s office. Always choose toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
Health Conditions and Dental Health
There are health conditions that can lead to weakened tooth enamel. Make sure your dentist is aware of your health challenges and diagnoses. Eating disorders and gastric issues, such as acid reflux disease or heartburn, are two health issues which can produce enamel eroding acid in the mouth. Dry mouth is another condition that can lead to enamel erosion, as saliva in the mouth actually works to wash away food and bacteria that can lead to cavities. Drinking water can help minimize dry mouth, as can chewing sugarless gum or sucking on sugarless hard candy.
Many of the simple ways to improve your oral health are the same tips to improve your overall health. Tackling one simple change, like eliminating sugary drinks from your diet, or brushing your teeth twice a day, can really help improve your chances of avoiding cavities, gum disease and tooth sensitivity and pain.
The goal of our Walled Dental Office is to keep your teeth and mouth healthy so your overall health will benefit as well. Dr. Hechtman and his dental staff are committed to helping patients achieve long term dental health by offering a personalized experienced with a full range of dental services and effective treatments.
With over 40 years’ experience, our dental clinic can address all your dental health concerns through every life stage including children’s dentistry, smile restoration, dental treatments, cosmetic dentistry and more! Call today for a Free Dental Consultation!