Has your dentist ever given you tips for what foods that you should or shouldn’t be eating? Better yet, have they ever given you the reasons that certain foods are beneficial to the health of your teeth and gums?

Sure, many of us have heard that certain foods like sugar, sticky foods and processed food are “bad” for our teeth, but have we heard of the many foods that are “good” for our teeth, or the ones that help control disease in the mouth?

Mother Nature got it right on many levels, and going back to basics with whole foods for teeth can really benefit the health of your mouth; but there happen to be a number of foods (some perhaps surprising) that when eaten more often, not only will help keep your dentist happy, but will help keep your pocketbook happier too.

Yes, food choices can tip the scale in regards to disease in your mouth and below are some choices that may have you spending less money on dental bills than ever before.

1. Cheese

According to a study published in the May/June 2013 issue of General Dentistry,  consuming cheese and other dairy products may help protect teeth against cavities.

Various compounds found in cheese may adhere to tooth enamel and help further protect teeth from acid.

Eat cheese at the end of a meal or as a snack to coat the teeth and neutralize the acids formed from eating carbohydrates.

2. Plain yogurt (preferably full fat or Greek)

Yogurt helps gums stay healthy, it strengthens teeth, it helps to balance the acids in the mouth and it also helps to fight bad breath.  Basically, yogurt is a dental super food!

A Japanese study of 1,000 adults revealed that the healthiest gums were found in those who ate the most yogurt.  Probiotics, (the good bacteria) found in yogurt are the possible reason because these active cultures may help to slow the growth of cavity-causing bacteria.  Cavity-causing bacteria love an acidic mouth.

Yogurt counters this attack by balancing your mouth’s pH levels, and creating an environment where bacteria have a hard time surviving.  Also, yogurt is high in calcium which helps to keep your teeth strong.

Eating six ounces of yogurt each day is recommended for the control of bad breath.

The best yogurts for dental health are plain and Greek yogurts because they often contain the highest amount of probiotics.

If you or your children crave sweet yogurt, you might want to add a small amount of fresh fruit or a natural sweetener like xylitol (see below).  Recently, there are a few preserves and jams that contain xylitol instead of sugar and work as a safe and sweet addition to plain (non flavored) yogurt.

3. Apples

Apples are not only good for your teeth, but they also act as a breath freshener.

The natural fibers present in the skin and the flesh of the apple helps to scrub your tongue and gums, and help to remove much of the plaque that is responsible for bad breath.

Also, they have a astringent quality that helps to get rid of plaque (Granny Smith apples work best).  Eating apples also helps to remove stain on your teeth from coffee and other staining drinks.

4. Broccoli

Broccoli does two things that benefit the teeth.  It helps to keep them whiter, and the iron found in broccoli helps to form an acid-resistant barrier that can protect the enamel of your teeth.

Broccoli is rich in vitamin C, and vitamin E, which helps aid the body in healing.  It is a good source of calcium, vitamin B2 and folic acid (which can help prevent spina bifida in babies if consumed by pregnant women).

The secret to broccoli and whiter teeth, is to eat the florets.  Raw is the best method for eating, because the crunchiness also gets the saliva flowing.  The best way to cook broccoli is to steam it because boiling broccoli for too long can cause all the vitamins and nutrients to be lost.

5. Pineapple

According to Dr. Ellie Phillips DDS, in the 1970s, she used to work in a dental office in Switzerland that recommended patients eat pineapple before and after their wisdom teeth were extracted. This intrigued her, so she began studying the effects of pineapple and its wonders to the mouth.

You would think with a fruit like pineapple and its acidity that it would be a no go for this list, but pineapple is one of the citrus fruits that actually alkalize the mouth (along with Granny Smith apples)!  Pineapple is the only fruit that contains an enzyme called Bromelain. Bromelain has become recognized for its health benefits and is useful in medical treatments for a number of ailments and diseases. In the mouth, it helps to reduce inflammation and help with healing.

Also, pineapple contains vitamins K, C and other substances that promote healing.  Many people claim that pineapple also helps tooth sensitivity, and according to Dr. Shawn Frawley DDS, he also states that bromelain acts as a natural stain remover, and it also helps to break up plaque.

6. Xylitol

Xylitol is sweet like sugar, but when it comes to bacteria, it has the exact opposite effect.  Fear not; xylitol is not a chemical, artificial sweetener. It is a naturally occurring sweetener found in birch trees and corn, and our bodies produce it daily (around 15 grams).  Xylitol has a very interesting story behind it, and there are so many dental benefits to xylitol there could be an entire article written about this product alone.

Xylitol does not break down and feed plaque like regular sugar.  Instead it tricks the plaque into thinking it is food, yet it delivers no nutrients to the plaque and essentially starves the plaque so that it can no longer survive and thrive.

Typically carbohydrates (and sugars) feed the bacteria in the mouth, the result is an acidic spike in the mouth for 20 minutes after eating or drinking sugars and carbs.  Xylitol also helps to immediately neutralize the acids in the mouth and it helps to increase saliva (great for dry mouth sufferers).

Having xylitol at the end of each of your meals will take away acidity and put minerals into the tooth surface. In order to receive the benefits of xylitol (also referred to as “therapeutic dosing”), it is recommended to ingest 6–10 grams (1–2 teaspoons) throughout the day.

Having a bit after each meal and a teaspoon in your morning’s water will help you satisfy the recommended daily “therapeutic” dose.

Xylitol is available in many forms such as sugar-free gum, candies, mints, lollipops, caramels, chocolate and granules which look and act like table sugar.  If you are using xylitol to bake or cook with, the ratio is an equal 1:1.

These simple steps will not only improve the health of your mouth, they just might also help you realize how easy it can be to stop cavities and prevent gum disease from getting out of control.  Both cavities and gum disease are bacterial infections that can be avoided with simple changes in both the foods you eat and the way you use your home care products as well!

Lifehacking your oral health routine could be the best change you make for the health of your mouth as well as the health of your body.

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