Poor oral health can significantly impact your quality of life. One of the main ways this happens is through weak teeth caused by tooth decay.
Tooth decay is caused by plaque. Plaque is a sticky, pale substance containing bacteria, saliva, and leftover food that forms on your teeth. The bacteria in plaque feed off refined starches and sugars and produce acid as a byproduct. This acid leaches minerals from teeth, weakening them and causing cavities.
Tooth decay can prevent you from enjoying a variety of foods. It can lead to cavities and tooth loss. It can also lead to complications elsewhere in your body.
The best way to strengthen teeth is to strengthen tooth enamel. Tooth enamel is the outer protective layer of a tooth. It is hard, calcified tissue that acts as a protective barrier for teeth, which is highly sensitive.
The bacteria in plaque produce harmful acid, damaging tooth enamel.
Besides acid erosion, enamel can be worn away through tooth grinding and brushing too vigorously. Other causes of weakened enamel include reflux, eating disorders, and developmental defects of enamel.
When the enamel is worn away, your teeth become very sensitive. It can be painful eating crunchy, acidic, or sugary foods. Worn down enamel can also lead to cavities and gum disease.
Once your enamel layer is lost, you cannot get it back. Enamel is inorganic matter. That means, unlike hair, nails, and skin, it does not regrow. Therefore, it is essential to keep your tooth enamel strong.
Thankfully, while you cannot get enamel back, you can reverse the damage before it's too late. This is called remineralization. Remineralization involves forcing teeth-strengthening minerals and vitamins back into the enamel. There are various toothpastes, rinses, and gels available that help remineralize teeth.
But while there are ways to repair the damage, it’s better to avoid it entirely. One way to do this is by drinking more water.
Drinking water after eating acidic foods may help to minimize some of the damage to the enamel. Water (along with some chewing gums) also helps generate saliva to flush harmful substances (food debris) from your mouth.
Fluoride added to your toothpaste or mouthrinse is an effective way to create stronger enamel and help prevent tooth decay or weakened enamel.
Another simple dietary change to promote healthy teeth is maintaining a diet rich in vitamins and minerals. These include:
While these naturally occur in a variety of foods, dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt all contain these in high quantities. Other sources include oily fish, eggs, and green leafy vegetables.
Keeping your teeth strong is important for a variety of reasons, some of which may surprise you.
Obviously, you need your teeth to chew food. Healthy foods require strong teeth to chew them. A healthy diet, in turn, enables you to stay active and look your best.
Having strong teeth also allows you to speak clearly and have a good smile.
But did you know that tooth decay can cause complications for the entire body? For example, respiratory infections such as pneumonia have been linked to bacteria that cause tooth decay.1
Typically, when someone has poor oral hygiene and plaque build up, it is associated with tooth decay and gum disease. If gum disease is left untreated for too long, it can lead to periodontitis. Periodontitis is a disease that causes the gums to recede from your teeth. This creates a gap where bacteria can enter and spread through your body, including your heart.7
Having strong teeth doesn’t just mean being able to eat and smile correctly. Keeping your teeth healthy keeps your entire body healthy.
There are a variety of toothpastes that help strengthen your teeth. Many of these will have fluoride in them.
Fluoride is a mineral found in many foods and water. It helps reverse early decay by remineralizing (repairing) the enamel layer. This helps protect your teeth against the damaging acid bacteria produce.
While fluoride toothpaste is great for keeping your teeth strong, there are some risks to be aware of. When swallowed at high doses, fluoride can be toxic. This is especially a concern in small children under six, who are prone to swallow things.
Excess fluoride, when ingested, can damage bones and ligaments. It can also cause discoloration or deformities in the enamel, a condition known as fluorosis. Parents can minimize this risk by ensuring their children do not swallow toothpaste.
But for those that don’t want to take the chance, there are fluoride-free alternatives available. One of these is Boka toothpaste. Boka is made of all-natural ingredients and contains essential vitamins and minerals such as calcium. You can use code NewMouth for 15% off your purchase.
Instead of fluoride, Boka products contain a mineral called nano-hydroxyapatite (nHa). Unlike fluoride, nHa naturally occurs in the body. Because it does not contain fluoride, Boka toothpaste is also non-toxic and safe for small children.
While relatively new to the US, nHa-based toothpastes have been the standard in Japan for almost forty years now. Recent studies have suggested that nHa may actually prevent decay more effectively than fluoride.3
Oral health experts recommend brushing twice daily to prevent plaque buildup. You should brush your teeth not only in the morning, but also in the evening before you go to bed. Brushing your teeth more often will drastically reduce bacteria food supply.
However, it is also important to brush in the right way, at the right times. After consuming acidic foods, your enamel is softer than usual, so brushing can actually do more harm than good. Wait at least an hour after eating these before brushing your teeth.
Many people can also brush their teeth too hard, leading to weakened tooth enamel. Consider using a soft-bristled toothbrush and using less pressure when brushing. By brushing regularly, you can strengthen enamel before tooth decay occurs.
According to a recent study, almost 80% of American adults have tooth decay. The main culprits here are fruit juice and soda.6
When you drink soda, the sugars provide food for bacteria to produce acid.
Meanwhile, juices are even worse because they contain both sugars and acids. The fruit acids create a process known as calcium chelation. Calcium chelation involves acids binding to calcium and stripping it from enamel.
Acidic drinks like soda and fruit juice wear away enamel. To maintain a good oral hygiene routine, consider drinking water instead.
Eliminating refined sugar (as found in most sodas) from your diet is another way to promote enamel health.
An easy way to keep your teeth clean is to maintain a balanced diet. This means not only eating healthy foods, but also limiting your intake of starchy, sugary, and acidic foods. According to a 2003 study, chances of tooth decay are higher when eating starchy foods combined with sugar.
Reducing sugar and starches in the diet helps starve acid-producing bacteria. Acidic drinks cover your teeth in acid, weakening them by leaching out vital minerals.
To better protect your enamel, try limiting acidic fruits in your diet. Avoid eating sugary foods too frequently.
Two common side effects of stimulants include teeth grinding and dry mouth. Teeth grinding is also known as bruxism. It often is a symptom of anxiety, stress, hyperactivity, or in reaction to medication.4
A person who grinds their teeth may not even be aware of it, as it can happen while they are asleep. Some symptoms of bruxism include headaches, a misaligned bite (from worn-down teeth), and a consistent jaw ache.
If you are experiencing bruxism, you may want to examine what medications you are taking. Bite guards, designed by orthodontists to treat teeth grinding, can also prevent grinding in the middle of the night.
Dry mouth can lead to weakened tooth enamel. Saliva is a natural defense against decay. It neutralizes acids, removes food debris, and restores minerals to teeth. When your mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva, plaque builds up faster, and remineralization is harder.
If you are experiencing dry mouth, consider if a medication you're taking may be the cause. You can also try chewing gum. Sugarless gum is an excellent way to promote saliva production without exposing your teeth to more sugar.
Here are some of the best enamel-protecting foods:
A diet rich in proper vitamins and minerals is essential to promote healthy teeth. Dairy products are a good source of Vitamin D.
But some people cannot consume dairy. Those who are lactose-intolerant can take Vitamin D supplements to ensure they receive healthy levels.
Eating healthy fats (found in foods like salmon) can increase absorption of Vitamins D and A. Another way to increase absorption is to eat probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and Greek yogurt.
Acid reflux can also damage teeth. Foods with high acid content not only damage your enamel directly, but also indirectly cause heartburn. This is another cause of acid erosion.
Stomach acid can seriously damage enamel. Those who have severe heartburn should not eat acidic fruits or spicy foods.
Some other foods to avoid include:
Foods that may counteract stomach acid include:
Asakawa, Mikari, et al. “Tongue Microbiota and Oral Health Status in Community-Dwelling Elderly Adults.” mSphere, vol. 3, no. 4, 2018. journals.asm.org.
Boka. “Boka works with your body, not against it.” www.boka.com.
Ebadifar, Asghar, et al. “Effect of nano-hydroxyapatite toothpaste on microhardness ofartificial carious lesions created on extracted teeth.” Journal of dental research, dental clinics, dental prospects, vol. 11, no. 1, 2017, pp. 14-17. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
Katz, Sheri. “Caring for Your Dental Health.” www.hypersomniafoundation.org.
National Health Service. “Vitamins and minerals.” www.nhs.uk, 2020.
Okunseri, Christopher, et al. “The Relationship Between Consumption of Beverages and Tooth Wear Among Adults in The United States.” epublications.marquette.edu/, 2015.
Salinas, Thomas J. “Will taking care of my teeth help prevent heart disease?” www.mayoclinic.org, 2020.