Food plays a major role in maintaining good dental health

Dental diet: Preparing your own food can help you keep on top of your sugar intake. Photo: Shutterstock
Dental diet: Preparing your own food can help you keep on top of your sugar intake. Photo: Shutterstock

Our daily routines and practices play a significant role in our general health, and dental health is no exception.

Recent statistics from the Oral Health Tracker, a nationwide survey of risk factors behind preventable oral diseases, found that Australia's dental health needs improvement.

Almost half of adults consume too much sugar, and the statistics are higher for children, with over 70 per cent of nine to 18-year-olds having more than the recommended amount of sugar.

This leads to issues such as tooth decay, even in children.

Changing our eating habits can greatly impact overall dental health, said Dr Mikaela Chinotti, the ADA's oral health promoter.

"That's why we always recommend the type of foods that promote good oral health - things like milk and cheese which are packed with the protein casein, and the minerals calcium and phosphorus, which can help to protect teeth from decay," she said.

"Chewing hard cheeses also helps to increase saliva formation which also helps to protect the teeth. So snacking on a delicious piece of cheese is better for your oral and whole-body health than a sugary snack," said Dr Chinotti.

"Fruit and vegetables are also tooth-friendly snack options. The natural sugar in whole fresh fruit is much less likely to contribute to tooth decay development than sugars added to foods and drinks. The chewing of vegetables such as celery also helps to scrape leftover food particles from the surface of the teeth."

Firm, fibrous foods like raw fruits and vegetables, chewing gum and sour foods also help to stimulate salivary flow - saliva is one of the best protective mechanisms for teeth.

Making foods from scratch helps you be aware of the included ingredients, including the amount of sugar added to the food.

Great staples to have as part of your everyday diet that are tooth-friendly include lean proteins such as meat, poultry, fish, milk and eggs.

To maintain your oral health, brush twice a day, clean regularly between your teeth, eat a nutritious diet and visit your dentist regularly.

Drinks your mouth will love

The best tooth-friendly drinks are milk and water, preferably tap water, as approximately 89 per cent of Australian water sources have fluoride added to protect and strengthen teeth.

It's best to drink water plain as slices of lemon make the water more acidic, and sipping this can damage the teeth.

Tea and coffee are not bad for the teeth but be sure not to add too much sugar. In addition, green and black tea contain polyphenols, substances that either kill or hold back bacteria responsible for the acid that attacks teeth.