I drink coffee all day, usually have a glass of wine at night, and regularly enjoy fermented foods. All of this is bad for my teeth even though I brush and floss religiously. So, just what prevents cavities? Foods that can help improve your dental health are definitely not on the list of foods and drinks I consume everyday. And, during my last trip to the dentist, I learned that consuming acidic things like coffee or citrus all day long can still cause cavities even if you are vigilant about your oral-health routine.
Additionally, Steve Lin, D.D.S., wrote on Mindy Body Green that aside from eating to strengthen your tooth enamel, it's also important to eat crunchy foods that exercise your jaw to ensure total mouth health. "Just like you exercise to develop strong muscles and bones in the rest of your body, you must do the same for your jaw. Since you can’t take your jaw to the gym, chewing is one of the only ways to keep it strong and functioning properly," Levin explained. "... prioritize hard, fibrous foods, like whole raw vegetables, whole nuts and seeds, meat on the bone, and chewy, dried, or cured meats."
The Truth About Tooth Decay
If you love pickles like I do, I'm sorry to report that the news is not good. According to an article on the website Health, a study of English teenagers found that eating pickles just once a day increases the odds of tooth wear by 85 percent. And, when your tooth enamel erodes it can cause demineralization, which increases your chances of developing cavities.
You likely already know that candy and soda are bad for your chompers, but wine is also high on the list of drinks that can cause tooth decay, according to Health. What's more is that wine can contribute to dry mouth, which can also make you more prone to cavities. According to WebMD, "Bacteria in the mouth convert sugars and carbohydrates from the foods you eat to acids, and it's the acids that begin to attack the enamel on teeth, starting the decay process."
Additionally, all-day snacking and coffee drinking also puts you at higher risk for tooth decay because this sugar-conversion process happens each time you eat and drink something. Basically, if I don't change my habits I'm doomed.
Foods That Fight Cavities
So, just what should you be eating to keep your teeth cavity free? "The best food choices for the health of your mouth include cheeses, chicken or other meats, nuts, and milk," WebMD explained. "These foods are thought to protect tooth enamel by providing the calcium and phosphorus needed to remineralize teeth (a natural process by which minerals are redeposited in tooth enamel after being removed by acids)."
If you're like me, and you do all of the bad things on tooth-decay don't list, chewing sugar-free gum can help because it dislodges food from in between your teeth, and it promotes the production of saliva. According to WebMD, "Some gums contain ingredients that can reduce cavities as well as heal areas on the teeth where cavities are beginning."
Speaking from personal experience, even if you brush and floss multiple times a day, if you eat the bad-teeth foods and you have a genetic disposition for weak teeth, vigilant brushing and flossing may not be enough. If you are doing everything right, but you still have dry mouth due to medication you're taking, dry-mouth tablets are a great alternative to gum. These types of tablets stick to the side or roof of your mouth and promote the production of saliva to reduce dry mouth and the likelihood of tooth decay.
For the best chance at avoiding cavities, WebMD recommended eating a variety of foods to maintain overall health, and consuming fewer foods that contain sugars and starches between meals. "If you must snack, choose nutritious foods, such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt, or a firm fruit (such as an apple)." So, while an apple a day might not keep the doctor away, it could make your next trip the dentists a success.