How to Eat for a Healthier Smile
Sorry, but you'll want to put down that second cup of coffee.
We spend a lot of time thinking about what to eat for our skin and waistline, and it turns out what we eat could also affect our smile. “Our mouth is the first place we experience the taste and texture of food. It is where nourishment starts. Good nutrition provides the fuel you need for not only a healthy body but a healthy smile,” says Michelle Yanover DDS, dentist, mom and recipe creator. Here's what to put on your plate — and what to avoid (hello, coffee!) — to keep those pearly whites sparkling.
Foods to Smile About
It sounds all too familiar but balance is key, getting a plentiful amount of vitamins, minerals and inflammation fighting antioxidants is what’s needed for strong teeth and gums. Here's what to add to your diet to keep your mouth healthy.
• Avocado: Avocados are already touted for their creamy, dreamy heart healthy fats and they can also help promote a healthy mouth. “Prebiotic fibers like the ones in avocado flesh feed the probiotic bacteria in your oral microbiome,” says Yanover.
• Spinach: Another reason to gobble up this leafy green, the vitamins and minerals found in spinach help promote dental health and fight inflammation and gum disease.
• Kefir: Fight the bacteria that’s lurking in your mouth with this probiotic filled fermented yogurt drink. “It is rich in calcium to strengthen enamel and full of amazing live and active cultures (probiotics) that actually feed the ‘good’ oral bacteria and inhibit that ‘bad’ oral bacteria that cause tooth decay,” explains Yanover. More on kefir in the recipe below.
• Apples: Apparently, apples keep all kinds of doctors away according to Yanover. “Their crunchy texture stimulates saliva which helps cleanse your teeth. If you can’t brush after a meal, having an apple is a great way to do some oral hygiene.”
On the flip side high-sugar and sticky foods can wreak havoc on your chompers. “Be sure to visit your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings,” Yanover adds. (We could all use a reminder about that!)
• Sweet and Sticky Foods: Whether it’s a sugar-laden gummy fruit snack or a mouthful of dried fruit, these foods can stick to your teeth, leading to decay. Snacking on them solo would certainly be troublesome but keep an eye out for foods like granola, trail mix and protein bars where they can also be found. When the situation does call for the occasional grab-and-go sweet and chewy snack, brush and floss after eating!
• Sugar Sweetened Beverages: Soda and other sugary drinks are full of refined sugar and other acidic ingredients that can wear down enamel.
• Coffee and Tea: Coffee and tea with all the fixings are a recipe for tooth decay, according to Yanover. Coffee and tea are highly acidic which is a no-go for tooth enamel. Adding lemon to your tea will only ramp up the acidity and if you like your cup of Joe light and sweet, all that milk and sugar creates a bath for teeth to marinate. When you do get your caffeine fix avoid sipping throughout the day to dial down the exposure.
Cavity-Fighting Chia Pudding
By Michelle Yanover
Did you know the lactobacilli in Kefir have been shown to inhibit Strep Mutans (the bacteria that causes tooth decay)? Incorporating fermented foods into your diet daily is a great way to reduce your risk for tooth decay and aid in gut health.
1/2 cup plain unsweetened kefir
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk— or other plant based milk
3 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
Dash of cinnamon
Mix all ingredients together (Mason Jars are great for this). Let rest and stir again. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. In the morning top with lots of fresh berries! Enjoy!
And don’t forget to floss after — those chia seeds are so nutritious, but like to hang out between teeth!
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. She is the author of four cookbooks First Bites: Superfoods for Babies and Toddlers, The Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook, The Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook and Healthy Quick and Easy Smoothies.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.