What to eat (and avoid) for healthy teeth

Want to keep that sparkling smile? Brush up on these food and drink no-nos when it comes to your dental health.

From a young age, it’s drilled into us that we should brush our teeth at least twice a day to keep them clean and healthy.

But what you do – and don’t – eat and drink can have just as much bearing on the health of our teeth, gums and mouth.

How does food affect your teeth?

Foods or drinks that are high in sugar or highly acidic can contribute to tooth decay.

Bacteria in the mouth uses sugar from those foods and drinks to produce acids that dissolve and damage our teeth.

Rethink Sugary Drink says tooth erosion occurs when acid attacks the teeth to dissolve the outer surface of tooth enamel.

Regular loss of enamel can lead to cavities and exposure of the inner layers of the tooth that may become sensitive and painful.

healthy teeth

Which foods and drinks are bad for your teeth?

Dentist Dr Mikaela Chinotti says we should limit sugary foods, foods with added sugars and highly acid foods – including things like citrus fruit.

Fruit is still obviously very good for us, but like anything, you can have too much,” Dr Chinotti, of the Australian Dental Association, says.

“Overly sticky and chewy foods are also not great as they take longer for the mouth to try to wash away.”

Eat sticky, chewy or sugary foods in moderation, and limit snacking, she says.

If you do eat a few sweet treats, avoid consuming any more for a few hours so your mouth has time to recover.

“Soft drinks, sport drinks and even juices are high in sugar and should also be consumed in moderation,” Dr Chinott says.

“Even kombucha is very acidic, even though we get the message it’s a health drink.”

Avoid or limit:

  • Sugary foods
  • Acidic foods
  • Sticky and chewy foods
  • Soft drinks
  • Sports drinks
  • Fruit juices
  • Kombucha

oral health

Foods and drinks that are good for healthy teeth

Dr Chinotti says water and plain milk are the best drinks for healthy teeth.

“Coffee or tea without sugar are OK too but they can cause the teeth to stain,” she says.

She says hard cheeses are good for teeth because they are full of calcium.

“And chewing sugar-free chewing gum can help stimulate saliva,” she says.

“Crunchy foods like raw celery, which is full of water, help create saliva as well.”

Saliva contains proteins and minerals that protect tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay and gum disease, and helps fight germs in your mouth and prevent bad breath.

It also helps your body digest food properly.

Foods to eat:

  • Water
  • Milk
  • Coffee or tea without sugar (though too much can cause staining)
  • Hard cheese
  • Raw celery

How to help your teeth if you do eat sweet foods

Dr Chinotti says there is no need to rush for the toothbrush as soon as you eat something bad for your teeth – a glass of water can help flush the mouth out.

Brushing twice a day and flossing once is the best line of defence for oral health.

Dental Health Week runs from August 5 to 11.

Written by Sally Heppleston.