Healthy Habits for Teeth
Dietary Choices For Every Stage of Life
Having healthy teeth begins long before you get your permanent teeth. Parents must take special care as soon as those first baby teeth poke through the gums, to brush them with a tiny squirt of fluoride toothpaste to protect and preserve these precious first teeth. Although flossing is a good idea as well, your baby’s teeth are likely to come in widely spaced apart, so no particles of food are going to get lodged in between those tiny teeth.
As a child, you may remember having fluoridation treatments, but now, the fluoride is found in the water we drink and the toothpaste we use. That fluoride has been a boon to thwarting cavities.
But teeth need more TLC than just brushing and flossing, and twice-yearly trips to the dentist and hygienist. There are foods and minerals that you should ensure are in your diet to keep your teeth strong and healthy.
Calcium for Healthy Teeth And Bones
Most people think drinking milk, or eating other dairy products, is the very best way to make teeth and bones healthy. Calcium and Vitamin D is found in milk and all dairy products. Recently, the media was all abuzz that nutritionists no longer recommend swapping out skim or low-fat milk for full-fat or 2% milk ... it turns out that milk with a little fat is better for you. As to the calcium level in a cup of skim milk versus a cup of whole milk, it is 293 milligrams and 299 milligrams of calcium, respectively. So, with the exception of worrying about the calories, as long as you drink milk your teeth and bones are being protected.
Not everyone likes milk, but some love other dairy products, so yogurt, cheese and cottage cheese is the way to go if you are able to tolerate a diet that includes dairy products.
But, what about those people who are vegan and do not drink milk or eat dairy products or those who are lactose intolerant and cannot consume dairy products? How does one get the necessary calcium in their diet and bypass dairy products?
Alternate Sources of Calcium
You will surely find loads of foods that will give you calcium to keep teeth and bones healthy, even if you don’t like milk. There are excellent substitutes in soy milk, or almond milk, or you can try tofu. If you opt for calcium-fortified soy milk, you can add 300 milligrams of calcium to your meal either as a cool and refreshing drink or even a steaming latte.
Non-Dairy Types of Calcium
- Baked beans
- Canned salmon.
- Dark-green veggies like spinach, broccoli, and other dark green leafy vegetables.
- Almonds and Brazil nuts.
- Calcium-fortified foods like ready-to-eat cereals or breakfast bars, even orange and cranberry juice.
Of course there are always calcium supplements to ensure you are getting adequate calcium in your diet, especially for post-menopausal women who run the risk of osteoporosis, a crippling medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue.
Calcium and Vitamin D Go Hand in Hand
The Vitamin D that is found in so many dairy products is essential to keep teeth and bones healthy, and osteoporosis at bay. Not only do you get natural Vitamin D from eggs, fatty fish like salmon and tuna (just the chunk light please because it contains more Vitamin D than white), but, you also glean it from sunshine. But, it is interesting to note that even if you eat calcium-laden food, it will only be absorbed by your body if there is enough Vitamin D in your system. Equally important, is ensuring that you spend enough time in the sunshine to help your body naturally absorb Vitamin D from the sun’s rays - a mere five to ten minutes of the sun’s exposure should enable you to reach your daily intake of Vitamin D.
Did you know that the state of New York receives only half of the solar radiation that other states enjoy? So, people who live in that state are often encouraged to take a Vitamin D supplement, especially in winter, to aid in the absorption of calcium in their systems?
Other Vitamins And Minerals
Vitamin A is often associated with good eyesight, clear skin and a strong immune system, but this vitamin also helps maintain healthy mucous membranes and salivary flow in the mouth. Vitamin A also helps keep your gums healthy and ensures proper healing. You can find this vitamin in similar foods to Vitamin D, i.e. fish, egg yolks, spinach and other dark leafy vegetables. Vitamin A is also in organ meats, like liver, and orange and yellow foods like carrots, mangoes and sweet potatoes. Eating foods containing beta-carotene is good because the body converts it to Vitamin A.
The B vitamins improve oral health by helping to reduce tongue inflammation and keep canker sores at bay. Glean your B vitamins from poultry and meat, as well as in beans, legumes and green vegetables.
Vitamin C is essential for good periodontal health. Vitamin C helps build and repair connective tissue, which aids in preventing gum inflammation. If you are deficient in Vitamin C, your body will have difficulty maintaining healthy connective tissue in the gums, leading to scurvy. Vitamin C is mostly found in citrus fruit, and green veggies like broccoli, kale and berries (especially strawberries).
Coenzyme Q10 is naturally produced by the body and provides cells with the energy they need to heal wounds digest food and maintain healthy muscles. It is also beneficial to decrease the bleeding associated with gum disease and to reduce inflammation in the gums. It is found principally in pork, beef, chicken liver and some vegetable oils (including canola and soybean).
Besides enjoying cow’s milk, or soy or almond milk, for other beverages, try to include green tea in your daily diet for good oral health. Avoid soft drinks, because not only do they cause cavities, but drinking large quantities of soda raises phosphate levels in the blood, which in turn will leach calcium from your bones and prevent the absorption of new calcium.
Hopefully these tips on how to eat and drink to make your teeth healthy will get you more gold stars at the dentist’s office, but, if you would like to discuss nutrition as it relates to your teeth, just schedule a consultation with a local local dental office to be enlightened.