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Nutrition For Healthy Teeth

Updated on January 19, 2018
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Brushing teeth regularly and not eating sweets are habits that are drummed into us from an early age. But they aren't the only things that can help to maintain a healthy smile. You can also enhance your pearly whites by adopting these simple dietary strategies...

Drink milk

Unlike most other other sugars, lactose in milk does not cause tooth decay. This makes milk an important drink for young children in whom the demand for frequent snacks and drinks means that teeth may be exposed almost constantly to damaging acids.

The main reason that milk is safer than other drinks is that it contains a sugar called lactose, which unlike sucrose and glucose is not fermented into acids by oral bacteria.

In addition, milk contains calcium, which raises the level of calcium in the saliva. This means that there is plenty of the mineral available for on-the-spot repairs to the tooth surface following an acid attack on the enamel.

Eat cheese

An even more potent way to protect teeth against decay is to chew a small cube of cheese after a meal.

There is more protective calcium in cheese than milk, and cheese is in contact with the teeth for longer. Casein and whey protein in cheese have been shown to reduce the loss of minerals from tooth enamel.

Chewing cheese also stimulates saliva flow, which neutralises the harmful acids that decay or erode teeth. Studies show that it can protect even when sugary foods have been eaten, or when there is a higher risk of decay due to poor saliva production.

Chew gum

Sugar-free chewing gum containing the sweetener xylitol has been shown to effectively combat dental disease. Studies indicate that a xylitol-sweetened gum results in a reduced acidity response to carbohydrates. Research shows that xylitol inhibits growth of decay-causing bacteria, and reduces the total amount of plaque on teeth.

Drink tea

Tea is one of the few natural dietary sources of fluoride which is known to prevent the loss of minerals from teeth. Research at Newcastle University Dental School found that tea consumption (three standard or six milky cups per day) could even provide some children with sufficient fluoride to actively prevent decay.

It's believed that the bacterial plaque that causes gum disease can also be decreased by drinking tea. The effect is probably due to tea's antioxidant components working in synergy with its fluoride content.

Use a straw

Drinking sugary or acidic soft drinks through a straw reduces their potential to do damage to teeth according to research at Glasgow Dental Hospital.

Video recordings were used to examine fluid contact with teeth following each swallow of drink through a straw or direct from a cup. In 14 out of 20 subjects using the straw, fluid contact with both molars and incisors was avoided completely.

Results showed that the best way to protect teeth was using a narrow straw positioned near the back of the mouth.

Eat chocolate

(yes, really!) Okay, so we are talking in moderation, but the high cocoa to sugar ratio of very dark chocolate (e.g. 70 per cent cocoa solids), may actually discourage tooth decay. Extracts of defatted cocoa have been found to reduce the ability of oral bacteria to make a substance that helps them to stick to teeth.

Another factor in cocoa appears to reduce the solubility of enamel, reducing the chance of it being attacked or eroded.

The truth about sugary foods and your teeth...

The biggest threat to oral health is not how much sugar you eat but how often. The basic message from dentists is to cut down the frequency of consumption of sugary foods and drinks. A sugary drink consumed in one go has the potential to cause less damage to teeth than a drink which contains less sugar but which is sipped slowly over a long period of time.

Even so it's still best to eat sugar in moderation Statistics show that on average, countries where levels of sugar consumption are below 10kg per person per year have a level of dental decay which is acceptably low. At above 15kg the incidence begins to increase rapidly.

The governments's Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy recommends eating no more than 60g of extrinsic sugars (all types apart from the sort you find naturally-occurring in milk or whole fruit) per day. That's equivalent to twelve to fifteen teaspoons a day, or one kingsize Mars Bar. Not just calcium for healthy bones. Several vitamins and minerals-other than calcium-may contribute to bone health and ward off osteoporosis according to new research. Results of a small study of 62 Scottish women showed that women who consumed the most zinc, magnesium, potassium, fibre and vitamin C had the highest bone mineral densities, and lowest bone loss. Micronutrients found to be positively correlated to better bone health were abundant in fruits, vegetables and whole grain products, proving again that these truly are the cornerstones of a healthy diet.

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