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Eating for Healthy Teeth and Gums

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What you eat has a direct impact on your oral health, and foods like cheese can be a big help.

Nutrition and dental health go hand in hand

Though brushing your teeth, flossing and regular visits to the dentist are all effective ways to prevent cavities, a healthy mouth also requires a balanced diet. For example, vegetables and fruits provide nutrients for your gums, such as vitamins A and C. The continuous supply of calcium and other bone building nutrients that you get from your 2-4 recommended daily servings of Milk products and Alternatives according to your age group protect your tooth enamel and help prevent bone loss, which may also lead to tooth loss if it affects the jawbone.

Cheese: An important ally

Many studies have shown that cheese is a precious ally for your teeth. This works several ways. First, some of the calcium and phosphorus found in cheese infiltrate the layer of plaque surrounding your teeth to remineralize tooth enamel and prevent erosion. Then, cheese stimulates saliva production to help clear away food particles. Finally, its protein and fat protect teeth from cavity-causing acids created as carbohydrates ferment. So enjoy dishes made with cheese and nibble on some after meals or as a snack. It will help take the bite out of your visits to the dentist!

Snacks that promote oral health

Both nutritious and tooth-friendly, high-protein foods such as cheese, milk, yogourt, nuts, eggs, meat, poultry and fish, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables make the best snacks. Another tasty tip: drinking a glass of milk along with your sweets can actually reduce the cavity promoting potential of sugar - one more reason to have milk with your cookies!

What about chocolate milk?

Chocolate milk doesn't promote cavities. Why not? Being a liquid, its sugar doesn't stay in the mouth long or cling to your teeth. Also, both cocoa and several nutrients in milk help protect against cavities, offsetting the effect of chocolate milk's sugar content.

Foods to eat in moderation

All forms of sugar can promote cavities - including the natural fruit sugars used as sweeteners and the complex sugars (starches) found in foods such as potato chips and crackers. And, the sugar and starch combination found in sweet baked goods like doughnuts, muffins and cookies can be worse than sugar alone. Why? It tends to stick to teeth longer, so beware!

In addition, if you are fond of acidic foods such as pickles, citrus fruits, citrus juices, and colas (sugar-free and regular) - watch out! Too many of these foods on a regular basis can erode tooth enamel and make your teeth more cavity-prone. Sour candies are a double whammy - sugar and acid together.

How to keep a healthy smile!

  1. Brush and floss at least twice a day. Be sure to clean the surfaces of teeth and along the gum line where plaque tends to collect.
  2. If you can't brush after a meal or snack, eat a piece of cheese, rinse your mouth with water or chew a piece of sugarless gum.
  3. Choose snacks that are both nutritious and healthy for teeth. Remember, sweet and sugary foods should only be eaten once in a while!
  4. Be sure to have regular dental check-ups. Ask your dentist or dental hygienist how you can protect your teeth from cavities through the use of fluorides and sealants.
  5. All foods can be part of a healthy diet, but some make better snacks than others. Choose nutritious foods that are healthy for teeth. Foods that are sweet or sticky should be eaten with meals or when teeth can be brushed after eating.

To learn more about oral health, visit the Canadian Dental Association (information available in English) and the Ordre des dentistes du Québec websites

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