There are certain foods and beverages that can actually brighten your smile or improve your dental health when you chew or sip them. Once you understand their chemical properties or textures, you can look to items you already have in your cupboards or refrigerator to help keep your teeth looking and feeling their best.
Green tea is a great way to reduce plaque and freshen your breath thanks to the polyphenol antioxidants found in its leaves. The leaves also contain another type of antioxidant, flavonoids, which are known as a natural antimicrobial that can rid the mouth of harmful bacteria.
Black tea is also great for your teeth, according to recent research by Dr. Carrie Ruxton. The Daily Mail reports: "A review of existing studies found that black tea helped combat two types of bacteria—Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus—that are both associated with tooth decay and gum disease."
If you are a regular tea drinker, there's a good chance you've got great oral health! If you're not a tea drinker, you are welcome to make an easy homemade rinse. Simply make a cup of tea, take a sip, and swish it in your mouth for a few seconds. Repeat if necessary.
However, tea can stain your teeth over time, so keep in mind that you always want to brush and floss regularly.
Chewing on sesame seeds can gently scrape plaque and stains from your tooth enamel. Their texture (along with nuts) is rough enough to do this according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. They also contain calcium, which is a known tooth and bone strengthener. Just be careful to not get them stuck in-between your teeth.
This one surprised me, but these mushrooms might be a very powerful weapon against gingivitis, a common and painful form of gum disease.
Shiitake mushrooms have been famed for their ability to strengthen the immune system and even as a potential cancer-fighter. Researchers found that shiitake mushroom extract managed to kill off "bad" bacteria that leads to gingivitis, but left "good" bacteria intact, unlike the main ingredient, chlorhexidine, in gingivitis mouthwashes, which tends to kill off all bacteria, good and bad.
Strawberries and raspberries have a magical sugar as well, this one is known as xylitol. Xylitol, unlike other sugars, does not cause tooth decay, but can actually help reduce it by preventing the growth of bad bacteria. So, there are many reasons to eat fresh fruit when you need a sugar fix, and it turns out healthy teeth is another one to add to the list.
However, you should skip rubbing your teeth with strawberries or brushing them with any kind of strawberry-baking soda mix, although you'll see many recipes for this floating around the internet. Researchers showed that this mixture can actually harm teeth by weakening the enamel (strawberries contain citric acid, too). Any whitening effect is usually due to the removal of plaque, and the potential side effects aren't worth it.
Do the heads of broccoli ever look like tiny brushes to you? They kind of are! When you chew raw broccoli, those little florets act as a brush and can easily "scrub" and remove plaque-causing bacteria from your teeth.
A study by Brazilian researchers posits that because of its high iron content, a protective shield is also left on the tooth enamel after consuming broccoli. Everyday Health also recommends eating iron-rich spinach, which could have a similar effect.
According to researchers, eating cheese raises PH levels, neutralizing acids that promote tooth decay, and certain compounds found within cheese might stick to the surface of teeth after eating, which further helps protect them.
What you don't eat can also be very important to maintaining great oral health and preventing gum disease, gingivitis, cavities, and tooth decay. Remember to avoid hard candies, sugary drinks, and even dried fruit when possible. Dried fruit can be especially harmful as it sticks to your teeth and the sugar can break down your enamel, as noted in this Huffington Post article.
If you're curious about your overall oral health, try taking this test on WebMD.