Aside from brushing, flossing and regular dental visits, eating certain foods can strengthen tooth enamel, prevent cavities, ward off gum disease, and even whiten your teeth.
Here are 14 healthy options and find out which ones you can actually stop avoiding.
Not only is cheese rich in calcium, which is vital for strong bones and teeth, it also contains lactic acid which prevents tooth decay.
“Cheese also offsets discoloration from other foods like wine and acts as a buffering agent against acidic foods that can harm the teeth,” Paula Simpson, a nutricosmetics formulation expert and beauty nutritionist in New York City and Toronto said.
You don’t have to avoid berries altogether to prevent stains on your teeth. Berries help to maintain the PH balance in your body, which is good for your teeth. Strawberries in particular have seeds that act like tiny scrubbers to remove bacteria.
Malic acid, the same ingredient found in teeth whitening products is also found in apples. Even though apples are acidic and can erode enamel, their rough texture also cleanses the teeth. Be sure to pair the apple with some cheese to combat the acid, Simpson said.
Ginger is not only anti-inflammatory, which can keep your gums healthy, but it can also prevent periodontal (gum) disease. In fact, a study in the journal Phytotherapy Research finds that ginger is effective at killing bacteria in the mouth associated with periodontal disease.
Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple, helps to cleanse the teeth and break up plaque in the mouth and citric acid is anti-bacterial. Pineapple also helps to produce extra saliva, your body’s primary defense system against decay, said Dr. Chiann Gibson, a Naperville, Ill.,-based dentist and vice president for the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.
The rough texture and high water content of crunchy raw veggies like carrots help to stimulate saliva, cleanse food particles from the mouth, and decrease the amount of plaque which ultimately can make teeth whiter, Gibson said.
A natural antibiotic, basil helps to reduce bacteria in mouth. You can add it to many dishes, pair it with fresh mozzarella, make a pesto sauce or even add it to your morning smoothie.
Salmon is rich in both calcium and vitamin D which keep teeth strong. If you’re eating canned salmon, be sure to eat the bones too.
9. Sesame seeds
Most nuts and seeds are calcium-rich but some like sesame seeds also work to scrub plaque from the teeth.
10. Shiitake mushrooms
According to a study by the Paediatric Caries Research Foundation in Australia, lentinan,
the active compound found in shiitake mushrooms, inhibits bacteria from growing in the mouth.
Going overboard on tea can stain teeth, but drinking some in moderation can also help keep your mouth healthy. Green and black tea varieties in particular have an antioxidant called catechin which inhibits the bacteria that causes gingivitis, Gibson said.
This versatile super-grain contains calcium, magnesium, manganese and phosphate, all of which strengthen teeth.
Dark leafy greens like kale and chard have minerals that support tooth structure.
Lemon helps the pH balance in the body, increase saliva flow and are a natural tooth whitener, Gibson said. Yet since lemon is also acidic, it can erode tooth enamel if you’re consuming it frequently. Talk to your dentist about an appropriate amount.
Julie Revelant is a health journalist and a consultant who provides content marketing and copywriting services for the healthcare industry. She's also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.