Your smile depends on you to maintain habits that can protect them from damage and decay. While some of us are naturally born with more resilient teeth than others, that doesn't mean that things like acidic foods, sugary foods, and smoking won't eventually do some significant damage.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to protect your smile and proactively strengthen your teeth. Whether it's by avoiding foods and drinks that threaten oral health, treating dry mouth symptoms, or taking steps to strengthen tooth enamel, you can take action today to ensure the safety of your smile and your self-confidence for years to come.
What Is Tooth Enamel?
Tooth enamel is the hard outer protective layer on your teeth. It's so tough that it's considered to be the strongest substance in your entire body.
However, as strong as enamel is, there are harmful substances that can slowly wear away at it, ultimately resulting in tooth decay.
What Causes Tooth Decay?
It's easier to avoid cavities and all of the headaches that come with them if you know what causes them and why.
Eating Sugary or Starchy Foods
The most common cause of tooth decay is eating starchy foods combined with poor oral hygiene.
When you eat starchy foods — or worse, sugary foods — the bacteria in your mouth feed on them and produce acids that slowly wear away at your tooth enamel. If you fail to brush away the bacteria's food supply regularly, then decay will occur.
Eating Acidic Foods
The damaging acid bacteria produce is not the only factor that can create cavities. You can skip a step and simply eat too many acidic foods without making sure to rinse and brush regularly. Eventually, the acid will wear away at your tooth enamel and cause cavities to develop.
Unfortunately, even some foods that are otherwise good for you can be acidic enough to do some damage if you're not careful about keeping your teeth strong.
Many acidic citrus fruits, for instance, are full of vitamins and nutrients. Fruit acids can even be great for your skin. However, you're still in danger of tooth decay from acid erosion if you eat them regularly.
You can still eat acidic fruits as long as you follow a good oral hygiene routine, especially if you also rinse your mouth directly after eating the fruit. It’s best to wait up to 30 minutes after eating acidic foods to brush your teeth to avoid additional erosion.
Another way that tooth decay, as well as tooth damage, can occur is through a tooth-grinding habit. Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding can be caused by stress, anxiety, or even certain medications, and it can occur during the day or while the person is asleep.
In either instance, the condition can wear down the teeth, which can leave them susceptible to decay.
Poor Oral Hygiene
Failing to brush and floss regularly and avoiding the dentist are the easiest ways to wind up with a cavity. Even if you have a fairly good diet low in starchy, acidic, or sugary foods, poor oral hygiene will still make your teeth susceptible to decay.
Tips for Keeping Your Teeth Healthy
If you're looking to strengthen your teeth and maintain that beautiful smile, there are plenty of things that you can do.
1. Reduce the Amount of Soda and Fruit Juice You Drink
Two of the most sugar-packed beverages you can consume are sodas and fruit juices. You don't necessarily have to remove them entirely from your diet. After all, some fruit juices have health benefits. However, if you want to maintain a healthy smile, you should reduce your intake of both. Take a close look at sports drinks, too. Many of them are loaded with sugar and acid.
2. Avoid Processed Foods
They may taste delicious, and they can be quite convenient in a pinch, but processed foods are almost always starchy and sugary. You know now how eating sugar and starch can elevate the levels of harmful acid in your mouth and result in cavities, so do your best to minimize these foods if you want to protect your smile.
3. Eat Plenty of Leafy Greens
You're probably already aware of the fact that foods like kale and spinach are good for you, but did you know that eating a diet rich in these plants can strengthen your teeth?
Leafy greens contain, among many other vital nutrients, magnesium and calcium. Both of these nutrients can strengthen enamel, so eat as much of them as you can.
4. Make Sure You Get Your Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps your body to absorb the nutrients needed to remineralize your teeth and provide you with healthier enamel. You can get this vitamin from several foods, and your body produces it when it's exposed to the sunshine, but you should also consider vitamin D supplements.
5. Use a Fluoride Toothpaste
One of the simplest yet most effective ways to strengthen weakened tooth enamel is by switching to a fluoride toothpaste approved by the American Dental Association.
Fluoride is among the best teeth-strengthening minerals, and swapping toothpaste is all you need to do to enjoy its benefits.
6. Increase Saliva Production
This one may sound a bit unusual, but saliva actually helps to remineralize your teeth. Fortunately, there are plenty of activities that promote saliva production.
Chewing gum can help produce enough saliva to keep your teeth strong and prevent a dry mouth. Chewing gums can be loaded with sugar, though, so make sure to go with sugarless gum.
7. Get Treated for Teeth Grinding
If you have a consistent jaw ache and worn down teeth from bruxism, then cavities are likely just around the corner, so you'll want to speak with a doctor about treatment right away.
There are multiple ways to treat teeth grinding, including night guards and therapy. You should consider consultation with a sleep doctor since many cases of bruxism are related to sleep apnea. You may also need dental restorations if you have damaged or weak teeth due to your bruxism.
8. Maintain a Healthy Diet
A balanced diet is one of the simplest ways to keep your teeth strong and your entire body healthy. Many people benefit from eating healthy fats, probiotic-rich foods, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Eliminating refined sugar is also crucial.
Dairy can also be great for your teeth. Not all dairy products are healthy foods, of course, but plain yogurt, cheese, and milk are full of calcium and phosphates, both of which promote tooth remineralization.
9. Maintain a Good Oral Hygiene Routine
Brush twice a day (with proper brushing technique) and floss once a day, every single day. You should also rinse your mouth with water after eating anything particularly sugary or acidic. It does more than keep your teeth clean.
10. See Your Dentist Regularly
There's only so much you can do on your own. Your dentist can deep clean your teeth and perform routine exams that will help identify the warning signs of oral health issues before they have a chance to develop. See yours once every six months.
Here are some common questions regarding how to make your teeth stronger and prevent tooth decay.
Can You Rebuild Tooth Enamel?
Yes, it's possible to rebuild the enamel on your teeth, at least before tooth decay occurs. You can do this with fluoride products or by eating foods that contain nutrients like calcium and phosphorus.
How Do Probiotics Help Protect Teeth?
If you eat probiotic-rich foods, you can reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth that are liable to cause cavities. This is also helpful for anyone trying to combat gum disease.
What Are Some Ways to Increase the Production of Saliva?
Aside from sugarless gum, you can also reduce dry mouth (and promote healthy teeth) by drinking more water, reducing caffeine intake, and avoiding smoking or chewing tobacco.
What Kinds of Fruits Are Known for Damaging Tooth Enamel?
Citrus fruits are the most likely to cause damage to your teeth, but there are some other acidic fruits out there to look out for, like grapes, blueberries, and plums.
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By regulating your diet, sticking to a good oral care routine, and seeing your dentist regularly, you should have no problem keeping your teeth strong and your smile beautiful.