The 'pandemic pudge' gets the most attention as the challenge we all faced while hunkering down at home—and with good reason: many gained weight from stress, boredom, or in an attempt to regulate emotions under extreme duress.
However, having a generalized fear of the dentist, an extended period of discomfort with face-to-face appointments, and procrastination could lead to neglected teeth and gums that you’d like to repair, especially as we all attempt to regain a sense of comfort and self-care while navigating the post-2020 era normal.
Go ahead, push past your fears and reconnect with a dental professional to make sure they handle any heavy lifting, but consider these 10 tips that you can implement today to strengthen teeth and gums naturally:
#1 Practice good oral hygiene.
You should always maintain proper oral hygiene, even if there is no enamel erosion present.
Remove dental plaque by brushing your teeth thoroughly twice a day and flossing daily between your teeth. Also, you should visit your dentist at least once a year, whether you have natural teeth or dentures.
Further, totally tend to your gums and teeth, protect your oral health, and practice good oral hygiene daily by:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes each time.
- Floss daily.
- Use mouthwash to remove food particles left after brushing and flossing.
#2 Eat More Enamel-Strengthening Foods.
As acidic foods can weaken tooth enamel, we can incorporate those that strengthen enamel to combat daily wear and tear. Consider adding some of the following foods to your meal plan to fortify enamel:
- Dairy Products. Calcium is an imperative component of tooth enamel and is abundant in dairy products. Add some extra cream or your ingredient of choice to your meal plan to strengthen teeth.
- Leafy Green Vegetables. Start incorporating green salad into your healthy meals, or blend the salad into a smoothie–adding berries or an apple for an antioxidant boost along with a hint of sweetness.
- Almonds. You can enjoy almonds as a delicious snack alone or sprinkle them over probiotic-rich yogurt to strengthen your enamel because these nuts are high in calcium, healthy fats, and magnesium.
- Canned Fish. Fish oil and fish bones contain Vitamin D, which aids in regulating proteins, and some of these particular amino acids create tooth enamel, too.
- Fortified Cereals. Cereal has come a long way from sugary rainbow-colored bits filled with loads of simple sugars sure to spike glucose levels and leave you hungry again in no time.
Today’s breakfast—or any time—bowls are often brimming with enriched ingredients, amplified with vitamins, minerals, and other additions geared toward boosting health and optimizing mind-body function.
Cereals like Frosties and Fruit Loops may feel like a nostalgic nod to childhood Saturday mornings, but it’s important to remember that these selections are saturated with simple sugars––containing upwards of nine or 10 teaspoons of sugar per serving!
Fortified cereal is an easy way to make sure you're getting all your daily recommended vitamins and minerals if you don't take a multivitamin or eat a well-balanced diet.
Also, women who are pregnant, children, and vegetarians can also benefit from these fortified foods because they are a convenient tool to help round out your micronutrient intake––especially varieties without a lot of added sugar or inflammatory trans fats.
#3 Practice Proper Brushing.
Practice proper oral hygiene every day to protect your oral health by following these simple and effective habits to keep your mouth in tip-top shape:
- Take two minutes to brush your teeth twice a day.
- Keep your mouth clean by flossing every day.
- After brushing and flossing, you should use mouthwash to remove food particles.
#4 Use fluoride treatment.
Oral health has relied heavily on it for decades. Fluoride promotes healthy tooth enamel and fights bacteria that cause gum disease. The enamel covers the outer surface of each tooth. Plus, fluoride is especially helpful in preventing cavities.
Fluoride treatments have the potential to reduce tooth pain, prevent gum disease, and prevent tooth loss, which is encouraging. Furthermore, fluoride treatment could improve oral health and overall health, potentially reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease while improving the health of teeth and gums.
The fluoride in toothpaste prevents decay by strengthening the enamel against acids––promoting the buildup of healthy minerals in the enamel, further slowing decay. Researchers have even found that fluoride can stop tooth decay that has already started in some cases.
#5 Recommit to regular dental visits.
Even though some people don't enjoy the thought of lying back in a dentist's chair, it's essential to do so on a regular basis to ensure optimal oral health, so you'll want to find a practitioner who works for you and keep your appointments to catch potential issues as soon as they become evident.
Furthermore, gum and tooth care extend beyond oral health. If patients neglect their mouths by not seeing a dentist regularly, they risk not only developing tooth, gum, and other diseases, but also developing diseases and illnesses elsewhere.
A number of serious health conditions are linked to oral health, such as heart disease, diabetes, strokes, and breast cancer, so maintaining teeth and gums aids in health throughout the entire body.
#6 Increase calcium and vitamin intake.
Calcium and vitamin D are essential for maintaining healthy teeth. Keeping your bones and teeth strong requires eating a diet rich in calcium-rich foods, such as yogurt, milk, cheese, kale, broccoli, wild salmon, herring, and eggs (with the yolk).
Moreover, calcium plays an influential role in the development of strong bones and teeth. Bones and teeth can become weaker and less dense when a person doesn't consume enough calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D. Osteoporosis and tooth decay are possible consequences.
Take care to include the following vitamins in your healthy tooth and gum regimen to ensure maximum support:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
#7 Limit starchy foods.
Compounds in food can affect every system in our bodies, even our teeth and gums!
There are some starchy foods to avoid, as these contain carbohydrates that break down into sugars and can remain in the mouth for a long time. Starchy foods such as chips and soft bread rolls can become trapped between your teeth and increase the potential for developing decay and cavities.
#8 Drink more water.
Using water to clean your mouth is a very effective way to get rid of leftover food and residue that bacteria love to consume and subsequently cause cavities. Cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth eat sugar and produce acid that wears away enamel.
Water also keeps gum tissue healthy and hydrated, and keeping your gums healthy can prevent infection. Plus, when you drink water, you wash away the bacteria that cause gingivitis––flushing away harmful bacteria and further preventing gum disease.
#9 Limit Alcohol.
Alcohol consumption can negatively affect oral health. Drinkers who consume alcohol frequently have worse receding gums than those who drink moderately.
Curbing alcohol intake is recommended to improve many areas of health and well-being, and in light of how excessive use impacts gums, it becomes increasingly imperative to consume alcohol moderately or, if possible, abstain from it entirely.
#10 Try a probiotic.
Probiotics are healthy bacteria that can treat gastrointestinal disorders. They have now been shown to aid in preventing and treating oral health conditions caused by bacteria, like gingivitis, foul breath, periodontitis and tooth deterioration.
Furthermore, probiotics may aid in the prevention and treatment of oral infections, dental caries, gingivitis, periodontal disease, pharyngitis (sore throat), tonsillitis, and oral candidiasis (yeast infection)––a worthy must-have addition to any savvy oral health kit.
Foods to Avoid for Healthier Teeth and Gums
Despite a wide range of delicious foods that might strengthen your teeth and gums, others might cause decay and damage. Your teeth and gums can benefit from limiting or eliminating the following foods:
Sweets, Candy and Other Sugary Foods.
If you love sweets, you need to know that candy, cookies, pies and other tasty treats can damage your teeth and gums!
Candy can also cause gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums caused by plaque buildup. As you eat candy, plaque forms on your teeth, fueling the growth of plaque bacteria.
Sugar also creates enamel-eating acids and attracts the tiny bacteria that cause gingivitis and gum disease. Your gums can recede away from your teeth and destroy the protective tissues that keep your teeth in place as a result of these diseases.
Furthermore, high sugar consumption promotes tooth decay. Sugar in liquid form is just as harmful as sugar in foods. It is critical to note that carbonated drinks, energy drinks, and juices all have high acid levels.
And foods that are starchy and sugary, such as lollipops, candies, and breath mints, can also lead to tooth decay.
In spite of brushing and flossing regularly, sodas can weaken tooth enamel. And bacteria that live between and around teeth produce acid when exposed to sugar in soft drinks, which damages tooth enamel, eventually leading to decay and cavities.
Coffee and Tea
Coffee is beloved worldwide, but various acids found in coffee can erode your tooth enamel. Consequently, bacteria and food particles can penetrate the teeth. And having bacteria in the mouth can increase the risk of cavities, decay, and gum disease.
Most of us won't completely abandon our morning cup of joe. Instead, consider using antimicrobial toothpaste. And consider buying a quality toothbrush or electric toothbrush to get into the ridges on the surface of your teeth and remove tea, coffee, wine, and other surface stains or matter that may compromise tooth enamel.
Red and white wines are highly acidic. Tooth enamel can be weakened by this acid, resulting in yellow teeth. Tooth decay and bacteria are also more likely to occur without protective enamel.
Chewing gum, applying chapstick or lip gloss to teeth (sounds silly but it works), or investing in some wine wipes will keep darker-hued wines from staining your teeth.
Also, opting for white wine is always an option to limit pigment that could possibly transfer onto your pearly whites.
There is a lot of sugar in most sports drinks. Each sip you take coats your teeth in pure sugar, which feeds the bacteria in your mouth that cause cavities, potentially requiring fillings or root canals.
Plus, the elevated acid content in most sports drinks is enough to damage tooth enamel, which makes the teeth more porous and susceptible to bacteria and tooth decay.
Also, weakened, or softened, tooth enamel can cause damage to the tissue under the enamel as well as the enamel of the teeth.
Citrus Fruits and Juices
It’s smart to monitor beverage intake when working to repair teeth and gums. For instance, citrus juices such as orange, grapefruit, and lemonade made from scratch can degrade tooth enamel.
Plus, frequently consuming orange and other citrus juices is shown to reduce the hardness of tooth enamel significantly, leaving teeth more susceptible to injury.
The lycopene and other nutrients found in tomatoes are beneficial on many levels, but these lovely fruits are also quite acidic.
Eating tomato sauce with spaghetti further compounds the damage to enamel, as the acidic sauce can degrade the enamel on teeth, and the carbs in pasta activate and feed cavity-causing bacteria. Beware!
Some enjoy the sensory experience of chewing on ice, while old wives' tales would attribute the practice to lower iron levels: whatever the root cause, chewing ice can adversely affect teeth and gums.
Chewing ice creates a cycle where your teeth rapidly cool down and heat up repeatedly, which makes your enamel expand and contract, typically leading to micro fractures forming in the surface of your teeth.
Alcohol causes dryness in the mouth and, and the risk for tooth decay and gum disease increases when saliva flow is reduced. Saliva plays an important role in oral health, helping to cleanse the mouth of bacteria.
Plus, when you have a parched mouth or are dehydrated, especially when hungover and probably compounding issues by eating poorly, bacteria loves the environment and in turn clings to tooth enamel and boosts your risk of tooth decay.
Taking time to follow up with your dentist regularly and sticking to the professional plan provided based on your oral health and needs is imperative. But there are some simple best practices to easily implement as soon as today to improve the health of your teeth and gums and prevent further damage.
Consider making a few dietary tweaks and tightening the reins on your daily oral regimen to maximize every area of your maintenance routine to improve and maintain your smile, teeth, and gums for decades to come.
- Neville, S. (2017). Promoting healthy teeth and gums. Child Care, 14(5), 10-11. https://doi.org/10.12968/chca.2017.14.5.10
- Kaklamanos, E. (2019). Probiotics for gum health during treatment with braces. Http://Isrctn.com/. https://doi.org/10.1186/isrctn95085398
- Lewis, C. (2002). Fighting gum disease: How to keep your teeth. PsycEXTRA Dataset. https://doi.org/10.1037/e542552006-003
- Diet, nutrition, and Oral Health. (2020). Pediatric Nutrition. https://doi.org/10.1542/9781610023610-48
- The effect of diet and natural agents on oral, Periodontal Health and Dentistry. (2020). https://doi.org/10.3390/books978-3-03943-512-8