By American Academy of Periodontology
Want a better smile and cavity-free teeth? Brushing and flossing are merely the beginning. Turns out there are a host of incredible edibles that fight bacteria, attack plaque and build enamel with every bite, says Wendy Bazilian, a registered dietitian and author of The Superfoods Rx Diet. Here, her surprising foods for a camera-ready smile.
Better Smile Food No. 1: Whole Grains
You know whole grains are filled with cholesterol-lowering fiber. But were you aware that the B vitamins and iron they contain help keep your gums healthy too? According to a McMaster University study of 34,000 men in Canada, those who ate three daily servings of whole grains — think brown or wild rice, barley, oatmeal and whole-wheat bread — were 23 percent less likely to suffer from periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease.
Better Smile Food No. 2: Carrots
They’re not just good for your eyes; carrots are packed with beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that is key to building and maintaining strong, healthy teeth. Sweet potatoes and pumpkin are also excellent sources of this wonder nutrient.
Better Smile Food No. 3: Celery
Water-rich vegetables — like celery — cleanse the teeth, washing away sugar and starches that can cause cavities and plaque. In addition, munching on crunchy veggies massages your gums, which increases circulation and can help remove bacteria.
Better Smile Food No. 4: Dairy Products
Dairy products such as yogurt, low-fat or nonfat milk and cheese are all rich in calcium, a mineral that is essential for preserving and rebuilding tooth enamel. Calcium also aids in saliva production, which helps kill the bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease.
Better Smile Food No. 5: Sesame Seeds
Another great calcium source, sesame seeds have a gritty texture that acts like 100 tiny toothbrushes to tackle plaque buildup. Try them sprinkled on cereal or vegetables, or blend them into yogurt, soups, and homemade breads and muffins.
Better Smile Food No. 6: Lean Protein
Eggs, poultry and lean beef are rich in phosphorous, a mineral that is critical to maintaining strong tooth enamel. In addition, phosphorous helps balance pH levels in the mouth, discouraging the growth of cavity-causing bacteria.
Better Smile Food No. 7: Water
Substituting water for sugary sodas and sports drinks may be the tooth-friendliest move you can make. Frequent exposure to liquid sugars allows cavity-causing ingredients to reach the most remote surfaces of teeth and gums. Sugary drinks also contribute to the formation of decay-causing acids in the mouth. (If you must indulge your cola cravings, be sure to sip through a straw to reduce exposure.) Water, on the other hand, contains no harmful ingredients and helps wash away bacteria from food, making it one of the cheapest, best dental health boosters around.