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Best and worst foods for healthy teeth and gums

You know that an apple is a better choice than a handful of candy when it comes to taking care of yourself and your teeth. But what about dried fruit, milk, nuts and potato chips? You might be surprised by some foods that are - and aren't - good for your oral health. Read on to find out the best foods for healthy teeth and gums.

Why are some foods better for your teeth than others?

Every time we eat or drink, we expose our teeth to bacteria. The bacteria then convert sugars and carbohydrates to acids that begin to attack our tooth enamel. Foods on the "good" list are generally lower in sugar and higher in protein, nutrients and water content. Foods on the "bad" list are more likely to contain ingredients that stick to our teeth and promote bacteria growth, which can lead to tooth decay.

What foods are good for your teeth?

The best foods for your teeth help protect tooth enamel and provide important minerals like calcium and phosphorus. Dairy products are low in sugar and contain calcium and protein that can help strengthen your teeth. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a top choice for dental health because they have a high water content. This can help dilute the effects of the sugar and stimulate saliva that helps rinse away food particles and acid, which can help protect against tooth decay.

Focus on these foods and beverages for a healthier smile:

  • Water
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Lean protein
  • Nuts
  • Low-fat or fat-free dairy products
  • Sugar-free foods and drinks
  • Sugarless gum

What foods are bad for your teeth?

Sugary, starchy foods not only stick to teeth but are more likely to get lodged in between teeth, promoting bacteria growth. Try to minimize the food and beverage choices below, since frequent consumption may make you less resistant to infection and gum disease.

  • Sugary beverages like soda and sports drinks
  • Hard candies that can break or chip teeth
  • High carb foods like potato chips that can stick to teeth
  • Ice
  • Acidic foods should be eaten in moderation; rinse with water afterwards to help wash away acids
  • Sugary, sticky foods (including dried fruit) that stay on your teeth longer than other foods
  • Excessive alcohol that can wear away at tooth enamel

5 tips for healthy teeth and gums

  1. Limit snacking between meals; when you do snack, choose healthier options and drink water to help rinse particles from teeth
  2. Aim to eat a variety of healthy foods and try to avoid or minimize eating or drinking anything from the "bad" food for teeth list: read food labels if you're unsure
  3. Drink water throughout the day to help rinse food residue from teeth and gums
  4. Brush and floss your teeth daily
  5. Schedule routine teeth cleanings and dental exams twice a year

Remember that you can use your CareCredit credit card to pay for dental cleanings, exams, treatments and products. Use the Acceptance Locator or download the CareCredit Mobile App to find a nearby dental provider that accepts the CareCredit credit card.

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