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Tooth-Friendly Diet: 5 Best Foods for Promoting Dental Health

By , Doctor of Internal Medicine | MBBS, FCPS, MRCP

Last Updated on October 23rd, 2023 / Published on September 11, 2023

Tooth-Friendly Diet: 5 Best Foods for Promoting Dental Health

No one enjoys the whir of a dentist’s drill. How about replacing that sound with the crunch of foods that taste great and protect your smile?

Dental problems are shockingly common in the U.S. One in four adults has untreated dental issues.1 Moreover, almost half of Americans over 30 show signs of gum disease.2

Now, here’s the game-changer: your diet! Forget the notion that oral health is only about brushing and flossing. What you eat has a direct, proven impact on your teeth and gums.

A poor diet can lead to cavities, gum disease, and even mouth infections.3 But a balanced4 diet—rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low in sugars—can be your best defense.

In this guide, we’ll dive deep into the science of how diet impacts your oral health. We’ll also spotlight the best foods and the essential nutrients, all backed by quality research. So grab your grocery list; you’re about to journey to a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.

Unveiling Healthy Nutrients for Strong Teeth and Gums

Below, we’ve curated the best healthy nutrients to strengthen your teeth and gums. Let’s dive in.

Calcium: More Than Healthy Bones

Calcium is essential for your teeth. It strengthens the hard outer layers of your teeth, called enamel and dentin. Your teeth also need calcium when growing.5 It keeps your jawbone healthy,6 which, in turn, holds your teeth in place. Your teeth can weaken and loosen if you don’t get enough calcium.

Calcium is good for your gums, too. One study7 showed that up to 39% fewer people got gum disease when they ate more calcium-rich foods.

This is because the calcium in your saliva neutralizes the acid bacteria make in your mouth. This harmful acid can damage your gums and make holes in your teeth (called cavities or dental caries).8

Phosphorus: The Underappreciated Mineral in Oral Health

Phosphorus is also vital for strong teeth.9 For instance, chewing gum containing phosphorus reduces the risk of dental diseases.10

This is because phosphorus makes up the hard parts of your teeth11 called tooth enamel and dentin.

Like calcium, phosphorus also helps lower the acid levels12 in your mouth. Otherwise, you’d have acid erosion in your teeth.

Vitamin C: The Gum Health Guardian

Vitamin C is essential for your teeth and gums. It helps make collagen,13 a protein. The collagen helps anchor your teeth in your jaw and prevent tooth loss.

Vitamin C also helps heal wounds14 in your gums and jaw. A study15 showed patients who ate citrus fruits (containing vitamin C) healed faster after dental implants. Conversely, patients who didn’t take these fruits recovered more slowly.

Foods to Avoid and Have for Healthy Teeth

The Don’ts: The Sugar Dilemma

Sugary foods and drinks can damage your teeth and gums.16

Sugar enables harmful bacteria to boost acid production in your mouth. The acid forms a sticky layer called plaque on your teeth. Plaque buildup lets more bad bacteria stick to your teeth and make acid.

This can hurt your tooth’s outer layer, creating holes (called cavities). It can also cause gum swelling. One study17 found that too much sugar increases the risk of gum disease (i.e., periodontal disease).

What Amount of Sugar Is Too Much?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO),18 kids under two should have no sugar content. At the same time, older kids and adults should have less than 25 grams daily.

The Do’s: Fiber’s Role in a Healthy Diet for Teeth and Gums

Fiber does two good things for your mouth.19

First, fibrous foods help clean your teeth by increasing saliva flow. This flow of saliva acts like a brush to clean your mouth.

Second, fiber makes your mouth less acidic. Lower acid levels mean fewer cavities and stronger gums.

Five Healthy Foods for Your Teeth: What Research Advocates

Dairy Products: More Than a Calcium Fix

Dairy foods like milk, yogurt, and cheese are great for your teeth and gums.20 A study21 looked at 6,885 kids and teens between the ages of 2 and 17. It found that eating more than 123 grams of yogurt daily could lower the chance of getting cavities by up to 39%.

This is because dairy products:

  • are rich in calcium and phosphate. These make your teeth strong.
  • contain proteins (called lactoferrin and lysozyme) with antibacterial properties.22 This means they can kill cavity-causing bacteria.
  • reduce acidity in your mouth. Studies23 show this reduces the chances of cavities.

Crunchy Vegetables and Fibrous Fruits: Nature’s Toothbrush

A study24 looked at how eating fruits and vegetables affects your teeth. The more fruits and veggies people ate, the better their oral health score was. Here’s why:

  • Crunchy foods, like apples and carrots, make you chew a lot. Chewing stimulates saliva production.25 The increased saliva level is like a natural teeth cleaner. It takes away acid and adds suitable substances like calcium and phosphorus.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables are also rich in vitamins C and E.26 These reduce swelling in your gums and mouth.
  • Fruits and vegetables contain special substances (called polyphenols).27 These can kill oral bacteria in your mouth. As a result, fruits and vegetables reduce cavities, protect the gums, and give you fresh breath.

Leafy Greens: The Green Vegetables for Healthy Gums

A study28 from Korea looked at how eating plant foods affects teeth. The study found two important things:

  • People who ate more plants had fewer teeth problems.
  • Eating leafy greens like spinach lowered the risk of gum disease by 26.7%

Leafy greens like spinach and kale have lots of Vitamin C. As discussed above, vitamin C is good for your teeth and gums.

Leafy greens are also rich in antioxidants.29 These substances fight off harmful chemicals called free radicals. This prevents tooth decay and gum disease (called periodontal disease).

Lastly, leafy greens make you chew a lot. They also have a lot of water content.30 The chewing and plenty of water boost saliva production. This cleans teeth surfaces and makes your mouth less acidic.

Quality Protein: Fish, Meat, and Dental Health

Lean proteins help build and repair parts of your body, including your gums and mouth. If you eat enough protein, your gums heal better and quicker.

Protein is also rich in collagen. Collagen helps anchor your teeth to your jaw. You can get collagen from lean protein sources like meat and fish. Eating these foods makes teeth healthy and more robust.

The research is clear: Protein is excellent for your gums and teeth. For example, in one study,31 people who ate fish had healthier gums and fewer dental problems.

Similarly, in another research,32 eating protein improved repair and reduced pain in patients wearing tooth braces.

Nuts and Seeds: Meal Snacks for a Healthy Mouth

Nuts and seeds like almonds contain essential elements. They have vitamins, good fats, and protein. These help make your teeth stronger and gums healthy.

Nuts and seeds33 are also sources of calcium and phosphorus. These minerals make the hard part of your teeth, called tooth enamel, even more robust.

Also, nuts and seeds are rich in omega-3.34 These fatty acids help stop your gums from swelling.

Like other nutrient-rich foods, nuts and seeds make you chew a lot. This boosts saliva levels, which serves as a natural teeth cleaner.

Your Roadmap to Healthy Teeth and Gums

What you eat matters: It’s not just about clean teeth surfaces or a healthy smile. It’s also about your whole body’s well-being.

In 2021, dental hygiene cost the nation a whopping $162 billion.35 That’s an 11% jump from the previous year. But the price tag doesn’t end there. Poor long-term dental care costs Americans $45 billion in lost productivity annually.36

The good news? Making better food choices is simple. Choose fruits over sugary drinks. Pick leafy vegetables and lean proteins. These aren’t trends. They’re science-backed changes that improve your long-term dental care.

Take this knowledge with you on your next grocery run. Your teeth—and your body—will thank you.

Ready to make the change? Start now.


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Written By
Azrung Fayaz

Doctor of Internal Medicine | MBBS, FCPS, MRCP
Written By

Doctor of Internal Medicine | MBBS, FCPS, MRCP
Azrung Fayaz is a Board-certified physician with 5+ years of experience working with trusted healthcare companies worldwide, such as Bicycle Health, Nectar Allergy, and NOVI Health.  He has authored more than 200+ articles and 10 international publications. His areas of expertise inlcude Health & Wellness, Weight loss, Nutrition, Mental Health, Joint Disease, Addiction (Opioid/Alcohol), Health-Tech, Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy.

The content provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Read More.

Join our community of health and wellness enthusiasts today !!

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