Ten Foods that naturally fight bacteria, remove plaque, strengthen enamel, and freshen breath is a good way to preserve your pearly whites.
Celery protects your teeth in two ways, says Lana Rozenberg, D.D.S., a holistic dentist and founder
of Rozenberg Dental Day Spa in New York City. The extra chewing it requires
produces plenty of saliva, which neutralizes the bacteria Streptococcus mutans
that causes cavities. Additionally, chomping on naturally abrasive foods
massages gums and cleans between teeth. Try This: Snack on a handful of raw
celery or carrots once a day.
Studies from the last decade show that cheese, with its low carbohydrate and high calcium and
phosphate content, provides several benefits for your teeth. It helps balance
your mouth's pH (an acidic pH encourages the growth of cavity-causing
bacteria). Cheese also preserves and rebuilds tooth enamel and produces saliva,
which kills the bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease. Try This: Enjoy a
1-inch cube (about 1/2 ounce) of cheese after dinner instead of a sweet
3. Green Tea
Green tea (Camellia sinensis) contains substances called catechins that kill the bacteria in your
mouth that turn sugar into plaque (a sticky mass of bacteria, sugars, proteins,
and fats that produces cavity-causing acid when it comes in contact with sugary
or starchy foods). Catechins also wipe out the bacteria that cause bad breath.
Try This: Drink 2 to 5 cups of green tea (regular or decaffeinated) a day, says
Mindy Green, director of research at the Herb Research Foundation in Boulder,
Colo. Consider making a thermos of green tea to drink at work. The night
before, steep 3 to 4 green tea bags in 4 cups of boiling-hot water in a covered
thermos for three to five minutes. Remove the bags. Serve the tea the next day
over ice or after reheating it.
For their size, kiwis pack more vitamin C than any other fruit. In fact, one large kiwi supplies more
than 100 percent of your recommended daily amount. If you don't get enough vitamin
C, research shows that the collagen network in your gums can break down, making
your gums tender and more susceptible to the bacteria that cause periodontal
disease. Try This: Instead of topping your morning oatmeal with brown sugar,
use a sliced kiwi.
Onions contain powerful antibacterial sulfur compounds. In a 1997 test tube study, onions killed
various types of bacteria, including S. mutans. Research indicates that they
are most powerful when eaten freshly peeled and raw. Of course, raw onions can
do a number on your breath, so be sure to have some fresh parsley on hand (see
below). Try This: Add a few onion slices to salads and sandwiches each day.
Chewing parsley or mint
leaves after a pungent meal will help you maintain sweet-smelling breath. These
herbs contain monoterpenes, volatile substances that travel quickly from your
bloodstream to your lungs, where their odor is released via your breath. Try
This: Top zesty dishes with a few tablespoons of minced fresh parsley or garnish
dessert with a few sprigs of fresh mint.
7. Sesame Seeds
According to fossils, our Paleolithic ancestors had great teeth. Anthropologists suggest that this is
partly due to the cleansing action of primitive foods like seeds, which slough
off plaque and help build tooth enamel. Sesame seeds, for example, are also
high in calcium, which helps preserve the bone around your teeth and gums. Try
This: Sprinkle a tablespoon of sesame seeds on salads and steamed vegetables a
few times a week for a gentle teeth cleaning and 87 mg of calcium.
8. Shiitake Mushrooms
A 2000 study in Caries Research showed that lentinan, a sugar found in shiitake mushrooms, prevents
mouth bacteria from creating plaque. Try This: A few times a week, add four to
five sliced shiitakes to soups or stir-fries. Buy fresh shiitakes or dried
ones, which can be reconstituted by soaking them in hot water for about 25
minutes before use.
Otherwise known as Japanese horse-radish, this condiment not only provides zing to sushi, it also
protects your teeth. A 2000 study in Biofactors revealed that the substances
that make wasabi taste hot, called isothiocyanates, also inhibit the growth of
cavity-causing bacteria. Try This: Eating wasabi a few times a week will
protect you from cavities. For a smile-saving salad dressing, combine 3
tablespoons rice wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon wasabi paste, 1
teaspoon soy sauce, and 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil.
Drinking water keeps your gums hydrated and is the best way to stimulate saliva--your body's
greatest defense against the bacteria that cause plaque and cavities. Rinsing
your mouth with water also helps wash away trapped food particles that
decompose in the mouth and cause bad breath. Try This: Aim to drink six 8-ounce
glasses of purified water throughout each day to keep your gums (and whole
body) hydrated and to stimulate saliva. If you can't brush your teeth after
eating, be sure to rinse your mouth with water.