foodWe all know the best recipe for good dental health: Brush and floss well after you eat. Good dental health means taking good care of your teeth, and avoiding foods that are bad for them, such as sugary or sticky snacks. But did you know that there are foods you can include in your diet that are actually good for your teeth and gums?

Certain foods can help you maintain a healthier smile. Foods rich in calcium, for instance, help ensure the development of healthy teeth, and also protect the structure of the jaw bones as you age. In addition, foods containing polyphenols or probiotics can help to maintain a healthy environment in your mouth, which protects the teeth from decay. Here are some suggested foods:

Although many people avoid milk because it is a source of sugar in the diet, that sugar, called lactose, is actually the least damaging to teeth. The calcium helps to develop strong baby and adult teeth. In addition, research shows that drinking milk with cavity-causing foods can help protect teeth from their damaging effects. A word of caution, though: Make sure to brush thoroughly before sleeping, as the sugars can linger on the teeth, causing damage. For the same reason, you should think twice before putting a child to bed with a bottle of milk (or any juice or sugared drink).

Cheese not only provides calcium for teeth like milk does, but it also makes the mouth non-acidic, protecting the teeth. The best cheeses in regards to dental health are those with a probiotic benefits, such as bleu cheese or brie. These cheeses have added bacteria that increase their probiotic levels.

Just like with some cheeses, yogurt provides both calcium and probiotics, which both help to maintain dental health. Probiotics help to reduce the bad bacteria levels in the mouth, and replace them with healthy, protective bacteria. Some yogurts have higher levels of probiotics than others, so shop wisely.

Saliva flow is important to dental health because it helps to protect your teeth from exposure to acid. Crunchy fruits and vegetables stimulate saliva production. In addition, some contain polyphenols, which can also stimulate saliva production. Polyphenols also have the potential to clean plaque from the teeth, and can inhibit the production of teeth-eroding acids and biofilms.

Green tea also contains polyphenols, so can help to protect the teeth. Too much of a good thing is not good, though. Teas can be acidic, so watch your intake levels.

Not only do raisins contain healthy polyphenols, but they are also high in fiber. In addition, they contain five phytochemicals — plant antioxidants — including oleanolic acid. These phytochemicals may benefit oral health by fighting bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease. Raisins are acidic, though, so make sure and brush well after eating them.

Research has found that these mushrooms contain a sugar called lentinan, which prevents mouth bacteria from growing in your mouth. These anti-microbial properties target the type of bacteria that causes tooth decay.

What we eat does make a difference, so eat well for a healthy mouth!

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