Us Brits have actually got a bit of a bad rap for the health of our teeth. In the real world we can’t all have a Blake Lively Hollywood Smile, however, watching what we put into our mouths can go a long way to helping us look after our teeth health and maintaining a pearly white smile at the same time. Read on for my nutrition tips for looking after your teeth…
Looking after your teeth with diet
Although we have incredible dentistry services today – which can literally work miracles even on the wonkiest of teeth – it’s not always accessible to all and, on top of that, as is always the case in nutrition, prevention is always better than a cure!
So whether you’re wanting to smile like Julia Roberts, to be a good tooth-y role model to your children or to minimise dental decline in old age, diet and nutrition can play a role in dental health.
As advice goes brushing your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and regularly visiting your dentist still absolutely stands. And if you’re not doing this then nutrition tips for healthy teeth isn’t going to do much to improve that…
However, I spoke with Natasha Smith, qualified Oral Health Educator about how diet can really impact our teeth and so here are our combined 5 Nutrition Tips for Healthy Teeth:
1. Limit your sugar intake
When we eat sugar, bacteria in our mouths eat that sugar and this results in the production of acids. It is these acids that dissolve tooth enamel and can have a negative impact on our tooth health.
One important factor is the frequency in which we consume sugar. If free sugars are consumed rarely, then the teeth will be able to (alongside proper dental care) repair themselves. However, if you consume sugar frequently the teeth have less time to repair in-between acid attacks and you’re more likely to suffer from tooth decay and dental erosion.
So, if you can’t give that sweet tooth a kick, try and make sure you’re not eating sugary food and drinks too frequently and, even better, try to consume sugar alongside meals so that the sugar and the acid has less time to attack the teeth.
“The frequency of sugar intake is more important than the amount. Eat and drink sweet things with meals rather than in-between as snacks. Snacks should be less cariogenic like vegetables, breadsticks and yogurt.”
2. Wait around 30 minutes to brush your teeth after food and drink
Additionally, if you’re thinking that brushing your teeth straight after you’ve gobbled some sweeties will help protect your teeth – think again! After consuming food (especially acidic or sugary foods) your mouth will be more acidic and therefore tooth erosion will start to occur. Research suggests that brushing our teeth whilst the mouth is still acidic actually damages the hard tissue on our teeth further than if we wait until the acid in the mouth has started to neutralise before brushing.
This has led to advice to wait at least 30 minutes after eating before brushing your teeth.
Natasha Smith goes one step further “don’t have anything to eat or drink one hour before bedtime to prevent the wearing of enamel when brushing.”
3. Make water your drink of choice!
Avoiding sugary and acidic drinks like soft, fizzy drinks makes total sense if you’re wanting to maintain a beautiful smile. It’s also a good idea to limit the amount of tea, coffee, herbal teas and red wine that you consume too. Often these drinks can be acidic and they contain tannins and chromogens too, which can change the colour of your teeth over time via staining.
Natasha adds “fruit juices, smoothies, wine and fruit teas are acidic and can soften the enamel on our teeth”.
Therefore if you’re looking for pearly whites, it’s a good idea to reduce your consumption of these drinks and try to stick to water more often. Remember to keep yourself hydrated though, as good hydration is important for skin health and to keep your bodily functions working properly. Remember to drink around 6-8 glasses of fluid each day, just ensure than the majority of these are coming from water!
Additionally Natasha adds that “milk, yoghurt, and even cheese can potentially counteract some of the acidic levels of drinks noted above”, so it’s not necessary to give up on your favourite tipple completely!
4. Limit fruit juices and dried fruits
Although dried fruits are really healthy and contain fibre and plenty of vitamins and minerals, because they are sticky, they may be more likely to hang around the teeth for longer and therefore provide a good source of sugar for the bacteria in the mouth to attack.
“Anything sticky can remain in the pits of the teeth for longer, causing decay” reiterates Natasha.
You don’t need to avoid dried fruit completely, but it’s a good idea to consume dried fruits alongside other foods, for example with nuts and vegetables, with crackers and cheese or in yogurt or with cereal. Fruit juice is also a concentrated source of sugar and acid, so it’s a good idea to consume this with a meal such as breakfast and try and stick to no more than 150 mls of juice a day.
5. Wash your mouth out!
Inevitably, none of us are perfect, and we’re going to reach for that cup of tea, that pack of biscuits or even a fizzy drink (gasp ;-)) from day to day. If it’s not possible to have your sugary vice alongside a meal, one thing that might help is attempting to rinse your mouth out with water straight after consumption. Alternatively, getting into a healthy habit of having a glass of water with your tea, wine or cake is a good idea to help protect your teeth and to help maintain that Hollywood smile for as long as possible.
For more reading around the topic of healthy teeth see:
Thanks to Natasha Smith for her expertise and great quotes for use in this blog post!