Nutrition counts when it comes to choosing foods that keep your smile beautiful, but food can do more than deliver vitamins and minerals. The foods you eat can physically affect your teeth — and braces — in good ways and bad.
At Glow Orthodontics, we’re proud to provide comprehensive orthodontic care, which includes offering tips about diet and nutrition. Here’s a quick glance at the foods that are best and worst for your teeth and how to adapt healthy choices into brace-friendly foods.
Nutrition for strong teeth and healthy gums
If you want to strengthen your teeth and prevent cavities with a healthy dental diet, you’ll need to fill the menu with foods that are rich in calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, C, and K. Calcium, phosphorus, and potassium strengthen your enamel. You also need vitamin D to be sure your body absorbs calcium. Foods rich in these nutrients include dairy products, fish, chicken, leafy greens, beans, broccoli, and nuts.
Vitamin K, which is abundant in leafy greens and broccoli, produces proteins that fight bacteria from the dentin inside your teeth. Meanwhile, vitamins A and C maintain healthy gums. You can easily get plenty of both vitamins when your menu includes orange-colored fruits and veggies, fish, peppers, and — you guessed it — leafy greens.
Best foods for your teeth
When you have braces, your teeth need nutrients more than ever, but you also need to watch for foods that could bend the wires or get stuck in your braces. We’ve included tips on how to adapt the best foods for teeth, so you can safely enjoy them with braces.
Here are the top foods for healthy teeth:
You probably aren’t surprised to see dairy products at the top of the list, because they’re good sources of calcium, as well as potassium and phosphorus. Nibbling cheese also lowers acid levels in your mouth, which helps prevent decay. Soft dairy products work well with braces, but are careful with hard cheeses or thick, cream cheese that can get stuck in your braces. Like veggies, you can thinly slice hard cheese to make it safe for braces.
Carrots, apples, and other fruits and vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables are packed with the vitamins and minerals needed to keep your teeth strong and healthy. But you can’t bite into hard, crunchy foods without potentially damaging your braces.
You can still enjoy fresh vegetables by cutting very thin slices or chopping them into bite-sized pieces that you can chew with your back teeth. To be extra safe, simply eat cooked vegetables.
Once your braces come off, it’s great to go back to eating crunchy, firm fruits and vegetables because they naturally clean your teeth. Though they aren’t a substitute for brushing, their texture rubs against your teeth, acting like a toothbrush that scrubs away debris. These foods also stimulate saliva, which rinses away food particles and bacteria.
Nuts are rich in calcium, phosphorus, and potassium, but small, hard objects are at the top of the list of foods to avoid with braces. You can enjoy nuts and gain their nutritional benefits by grinding them and using them as a topping on cereal and yogurt or blending them into a smoothie with milk and a banana.
Whole grains contain the nutrients you need in a dental diet, but they come with a few warnings for brace wearers. Beware of whole grains that contain small nuts and solid pieces of grains. You should also steer clear of hard-crusted bread and rolls. If you love crunchy cereals, let them soften in milk before taking a bite.
Don’t forget about water
Water is great for your teeth, especially if it’s fluoridated. Fluoride is a potent cavity fighter. It strengthens your enamel and helps repair the early stages of tooth decay. When you can’t brush your teeth right after eating, swishing water in your mouth goes a long way toward rinsing away sugar and food debris.
Worst foods (and beverages) for your teeth
It’s easy to identify the worst foods for teeth and braces:
Small, hard, and crunchy foods
Hard, crunch foods, not only get trapped in the wires and brackets, but can also detach the wires, brackets and bands. Popcorn, nuts, crunchy snacks like tortilla chips and pretzels are the usual suspects that cause problems with bending wires or breaking off brackets resulting in emergency appointments..
Cavity-causing bacteria thrive on sugar. The problem is magnified if you eat sugary foods that stick to your teeth or that you stay in your mouth for an extended time. The last thing your teeth need is to be bathed in sugar, and sticky items are the absolute worst for your teeth and braces.
Some of the biggest offenders include caramel, taffy, lollipops, and hard candies. Potato chips and other crunchy high-carb snacks also pose a problem because they quickly break down into sugars that feed bacteria.
Acid-containing foods and beverages
Acids in foods and beverages erode healthy enamel, making it easy for bacteria to penetrate the surface and cause decay. Some acids are natural. For example, oranges, lemons, limes, pickles, vinegar, and tomato products are acidic. Acids are also added to products such as sour candies, sodas, and sports drinks, where the acid boosts flavor and adds tang.
Just like sugary products, acids are most likely to harm your teeth when they’re in a sticky candy or when your teeth are exposed to acids frequently or for a long time. For example, sipping on sodas or sports drinks throughout the day or keeping large sour candies for long periods of time leads to significant enamel erosion.
So how acidic are these foods and beverages? The measure of acidity is called pH. Water has a pH of 7, while battery acid has a pH of 1. The enamel on your teeth begins to erode around a pH of 4. Most sodas, sports drinks, and sour candies have a pH in the range of 2-3. Keep your teeth healthy by cutting out all problem foods during orthodontic treatment and increasing healthy foods and drinking water frequently.
If you have any questions about a healthy dental diet, call one of the Glow Orthodontics offices, and we’ll be glad to provide tips on keeping your teeth healthy and keeping a beautiful lifelong smile.