Tooth decay occurs when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) such as breads, cereals, milk, soda, fruits, cakes, or candy are left on the teeth. Bacteria that live in the mouth digest these foods and turn them into acids. The bacteria, acid, food debris, and saliva combine to form plaque, which clings to the teeth. The acids in plaque dissolve the enamel surface of the teeth, creating holes in the teeth called cavities, or caries.
The good news is that there are foods that actually fight bacteria, remove plaque, strengthen enamel and freshen breath.
- Apples – they are nature’s toothbrush because they stimulate the gums, increase saliva flow and reduce the buildup of cavity causing plaque.
- Cheese – derived from milk, cheese is a great source of calcium which is an essential nutrient for the development of bones and teeth. Eating cheese results in a coating of calcium on the teeth that protects against cavities.
- Kiwi fruit – For their size, kiwis pack more vitamin C than any other fruit. In fact, one large kiwi supplies more than 100 percent of your recommended daily amount. If you don’t get enough vitamin C, research shows that the collagen network in your gums can break down, making your gums tender and more susceptible to the bacteria that cause periodontal disease.
- Strawberries. Another good source of vitamin C.
- Celery and Carrots. These protect the teeth in two ways. They require extra chewing which produces more saliva that neutralizes the acid produced by bacteria. Also, chewing naturally abrasive foods massages the gums and cleans between the teeth.
- Green Tea. Contains anti-oxidants called catechins that kill the bacteria in your mouth that turn sugar into plaque.
- Milk. It’s not just your bones that benefit from milk; your teeth get stronger and healthier when you drink, too, because it contains calcium. Calcium helps protect your teeth against periodontal (gum) disease and keeps your jaw bone strong and healthy.
- Lean Protein.Eggs, poultry and lean beef are rich in phosphorous, a mineral critical to maintaining strong tooth enamel.
- Water. Drinking water keeps your gums hydrated and is the best way to stimulate saliva–your body’s greatest defense against the bacteria that cause plaque and cavities. Rinsing your mouth with water also helps wash away trapped food particles that decompose in the mouth and cause bad breath.
- Xylitol Gum. Although not a food, this gum contains an artificial sweetner called Xylitol. This ingredient may directly prevent cavities. Research has found that Xylitol appears to inhibit bacterial growth, including growth of the main bacteria implicated in dental decay.