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By Sayward Rebhal
We all know that oral care is important, and holistic oral care goes way beyond brushing and flossing. With alternative therapies such as oil pulling, and homemade solutions such as herbal mouthwash, there’s a lot you can do to ensure your smile stays beautiful and bright. But don’t overlook the powerful purification properties of simple, everyday foods. The following six are supercharged oral crime fighters, certain to keep your gums safe and pearly whites pretty.
1. Green Tea
Green tea contains complex compounds called “catechins” that can fight inflammation and actually control bacterial infections. It’s true. For example, one Japanese study found that men who drink green tea regularly have less occurrence of periodontal disease, as compared to infrequent tree drinkers. And another Japanese study showed that for both men and women, drinking one or more cups of tea per day was correlated with less tooth loss later in life. The antimicrobial “catechins” may in fact account for the oral health benefits associated with green tea, but as of now further study is needed. What we do know for sure, however, is that green tea consumption is good for oral health, period.
2. Strawberries and Kiwis (and to a lesser extent, Citrus Fruits)
Vitamin C is very important for the overall health of delicate gum tissue, because the vitamin C helps to prevent collagen from breaking down. Without collagen, gums become extra tender, and thus susceptible to periodontal disease. Kiwis and strawberries have the highest concentration of vitamin C, but citrus fruits also boast good numbers. These fruits also do double duty because of their astringency, which may help to reverse discoloration caused by commonly consumed beverages like coffee and wine.
3. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a great source of plant-based protein, and they pack in powerful teeth-healthy micronutrients such as phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and most importantly, calcium. Calcium is of course essential for strong bones and teeth, and dietary calcium may actually contribute to tooth remineralization. The nuts highest in calcium are almonds and brazil nuts. Sesame seeds are incredibly high in calcium as well, but make sure you get the unhulled variety
Onions, especially when eaten raw, boast powerful bacteria-busting prowess thanks to their antimicrobial sulfur-containing compounds. Recent research out of a Korean University has confirmed that raw onions were actually able to completely eradicate four strains of bacteria known to cause cavities and periodontal disease. Raw onion slivers can be eaten on sandwiches or in salads. However, if you simply cannot stomach them raw, cooked onion is better than no onion at all.
5. Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitakes contain lentinan, a natural sugar that may help to prevent gingivitis. Gingivitis is gum inflammation, characterized by redness, swelling, and possibly even bleeding, often caused by a build-up of bacterial biofilm. Recent studies show that antibacterial compounds like lentinan specifically target these biofilm-making microbes. In fact, they’re so precise that they kill cavity-causing bacteria while leaving the other, non-harmful bacteria completely unaffected.
6. Apples, Celery and other Low-Acid, Fibrous Foods
Often referred to as “dental detergents” these water-rich fruits and veggies act by stimulating saliva production, which keeps oral bacteria in check. These high-fiber foods also have a scrubbing effect, literally cleansing the surface of your teeth as you eat, working to brush the bacteria away. Chewing these foods will disturb and dislodge newly formed dental plaque, preventing it from ever forming.