What do November, December, and January all have in common? Tons of holiday foods. Cookies, cakes, pies -- in other words, a cavity waiting to happen.
We care about our teeth, but we don’t want to have to sacrifice all of our holiday favorites! Don’t worry, there is an easy solution. By adding foods that are good for your dental health to your diet and managing foods that aren’t, you’ll save yourself an unnecessary trip to the dentist.
In this post, we will discuss:
- Foods you should be eating
- Foods to avoid
- Replacements for teeth-damaging foods
Foods You Should be Eating
Fiber-Rich Fruits and Vegetables
Fiber helps to keep your teeth and gums clean while generating more bacteria-fighting saliva. After you eat sugary-rich food, its acids and bacteria begin to attack your enamel. Fiber induced saliva will restore the damages done to the minerals in your teeth.
Here are some recommended fruits and veggies:
- Crisp Fruits and Vegetables (apples, celery, carrots, etc.) -- “Nature’s toothbrush.” Crisp fruits help clean plaque and tartar from your teeth.
- Bananas -- Bananas are packed full of minerals, potassium, magnesium, and manganese, which help manage teeth sensitivity.
- Vitamin C (oranges, lemons, mint, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc.) -- Fruits and vegetables that are high in Vitamin C protect from gum disease and fight oral infections.
- Strawberries -- Strawberries contain whitening enzyme malic acid that whitens our smiles.
- Cranberries -- Cranberries interfere with oral bacteria before they settle on your teeth.
- Sweet Potatoes -- Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins that keep our teeth white and strengthen our enamel.
- Leafy Greens -- These contain teeth-strengthening, and immune system boosting, vitamins.
Cheese, milk, plain yogurt, and other dairy products are great for increasing saliva output. Besides that, the calcium and phosphates found within dairy assists in replacing our teeth’s lost minerals and repairing enamel.
In other words, you won’t have to skip the cheeseboard this holiday!
Green and Black Teas
Both green and black teas have polyphenols, micro-nutrients that have great health benefits, that stop plaque bacteria. They either kill or slow down the spread of plaque, preventing acids from growing or causing damage.
Foods with Fluoride
Fluoride is a major player in the fight against cavities.
“Once in your enamel, fluoride teams up with calcium and phosphate there to create the most powerful defense system your teeth can have to prevent cavities from forming: fluorapatite. It’s much stronger, more resistant to decay, and fights to protect your teeth.” -- Mouthhealthy.org
Foods containing fluoride include:
- Powdered juices (low in sugar)
- Dehydrated soups
- Poultry products
- Powdered cereals
Foods to Avoid
If you have a sweet tooth, you are going to want to avoid candies that stick to your teeth such as lollipops or caramels. Hard sticky candies are full of sugar and increase the risk of chipping a tooth, while sour sticky candies contain acids that work on your teeth while they get lost in the grooves -- your best bet is to buy some sugar-free gum to curb those sweet cravings.
When you chew starchy foods (bread, potato chips, pasta), your saliva breaks the starch down into sugar. Because of this, the starch takes on a new gooey texture that easily allows it to get stuck between teeth -- causing a cavity.
You don’t have to knock out starches entirely, but it’s in your teeth’s best interest to replace the white bread with wheat or whole grain.
Carbonated Soft Drinks
Pop, soda, soft drinks -- otherwise known as the leading source of added sugar for kids and teens.
Besides the massive amounts of sugar, most soft drinks have phosphoric and citric acids that will eat away at your tooth enamel. Caffeinated soft drinks are even more detrimental because they dry out your mouth. This leaves you without saliva, which helps harm the bacteria brought on by sugary drinks.
A little bit of alcohol is okay, but if you drink excessively you may find your saliva flow decreasing over time. This can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral infections. Heavy drinkers are also at a higher risk of mouth cancer.
Earlier, we said that fruits like oranges and lemons are good for you because their Vitamin C. This is still true, but fruits with citrus can also damage your teeth due to their acid content.
In order to prevent tooth decay and enamel erosion, it is best to have citrus in moderation or at mealtime and rinse with water afterward.
Now that we know the basics of what to eat and what not to eat, let’s check out some holiday recipes that will keep you and your teeth happy.
Bake Nut-Based Cookies
According to Colgate, you can cut out 25 to 50 percent of the sugar in cookies by baking with nuts -- and they’re also a great source of fiber!
If your batter isn’t sweet enough for you, you can add a natural sweetener like apple sauce.
Pie crust contains butter and white flour, meaning it is also high in saturated fat, sugar, and starch. Instead of traditional pie crust, try baking a crumble using nut flour instead of white flour. Another tip is to use spices to sweeten your pie instead of adding unnecessary sugars.
Since they are hard sticky candy, candy canes are one of the worst holiday treats for your teeth. If they are one of your favorites, you can update them by substituting sugar with mint extract or dark chocolate pudding (using avocado as the emulsifier) with peppermint.
Dark chocolate has less sugar than milk chocolate and has a high level of antioxidants. The darker the chocolate you find, the less sugar it contains.
Vegetables don’t exactly sound like a treat but with the number of dips and extravagant vegetable trays nowadays, they really are! Plus your teeth will love it.
Check out some creative alternate recipes at mouthhealthy.org
By eating dentist recommended foods, you ensure your oral health and happiness all year long. Of course, a holiday treat here and there may not hurt, but if you frequently eat the foods on our don’t list, you may want to start trying some new alternatives. Happy Holidays!