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Eight Tips for Beautiful Teeth

The following eight eating habits will make sure you never have to hide your winning smile.

1. Condense Your Consumption of Carbs: My brother Jeff, an orthodontist, recently asked me, “Which do you think is more harmful to your teeth: having a piece of chocolate cake at one sitting or sipping a cup of coffee with sugar throughout the day?” Believe it or not, the answer is the coffee, because sipping continuously throughout the day provides a constant opportunity for the sugars to attack your teeth (chances are, we eat a piece of chocolate cake pretty quickly!).

Teeth don’t really care about portion control. For them, eating one caramel has basically the same effect as eating 20. However, for your teeth, timing is everything. Eating 20 caramels all at once is better for your teeth than eating one caramel every so often, all day. Sucking on hard candy or nibbling on chips and cookies all day nourishes bacteria and bathes teeth with acids that cause cavities. (For 20 or more minutes, bacteria feed off the carbohydrates, and the acids produced go to work on your teeth until your saliva is able to wash away the food particles and neutralize the acids.) If you snack, eat every three to four hours, not every three to four minutes!

*Bad for teeth are lollipops, cough drops, peppermints, and sweet candies that bathe the teeth in sugar. If you tend to eat these sweets in succession, your teeth get a sugar bath all day.

*Even worse for teeth are chewy or sticky treats like Starburst candies, Tootsie Rolls, Gummi Bears, caramels, and Skittles. Sticky foods stay on teeth longer, and this increases acid formation.

*Worst of all for teeth are soft, sweet, sticky foods like cake, candy, bread, potato chips, crackers, cookies, sugar-coated cereals, cream-filled cookies, and so on. Unlike simple sugars, starchy snacks get stuck in between your teeth and linger in the mouth, continuing to feed the bacteria that cause tooth decay. If you don’t brush or floss, food particles may hang around for hours or days.

To discourage tooth decay, condense your consumption of carbs, and avoid sticky, sugary treats!

2. Snack with Care: When you crave a snack, reach for some sugar-free gum with xylitol. It increases the production of saliva, which is your body’s natural mechanism for washing away food and neutralizing acid, plus xylitol can temporarily slow the growth of the bacteria that cause tooth decay. If gum won’t do the trick, choose among the following smile protectors.

*Apples. Personally I love the way a crunchy apple makes my teeth feel. Apples are sweet but not sticky, plus they increase the flow of saliva—your best natural defense against cavities and gum disease.

*Carrots. Crunchy vegetables clean and stimulate the gums, helping to scrape away food particles. Foods with fiber have a cleansing effect, and they also stimulate saliva flow, rinsing away bacteria and keeping your mouth hydrated.

*Cheese. A small piece of hard cheese is good for your teeth. Cheese has calcium and other trace minerals in it, plus hard cheeses have been shown to generate saliva, which neutralizes the pH level in your mouth. That means your mouth is less acidic and therefore less prone to tooth decay.

*Cranberries. Scientists have discovered that cranberries contain a compound that can stop bacteria from clinging to the teeth, blocking the formation of plaque deposits. However, cranberries are naturally bitter, so foods with cranberries usually have sugar added.

*Dark chocolate. This treat offers beauty benefits to our teeth! Researchers have discovered a cocoa extract that is more effective at protecting teeth than fluoride. A substance called theobromine helps harden tooth enamel, making teeth less susceptible to decay. Unfortunately, even high-quality dark chocolate is only about 3 percent theobromine, but the substance may soon be appearing in commercial toothpaste.

*Kiwi. One of my Top 10 Beauty Foods, kiwi has many beauty benefits and is a good choice for teeth because of its high vitamin C content.

*Onions. Granted, raw onions are not your typical American snack, but they do contain powerful antibacterial compounds that help fight cavities. Adding a few onion slices to your salad or sandwich could hurt your breath but help your teeth.

*Raisins. A study at the University of Illinois in Chicago found that raisins contain oleanolic acid, a phytochemical that in lab tests inhibited the growth of the oral bacteria that can lead to poor gum health and cavities. At a concentration of 31 micrograms per milliliter, oleanolic acid prevented S. mutans from adhering to tooth surfaces. At 62 micrograms per milliliter, it inhibited the growth of Porphyromonas gingivalis, a leading cause of periodontal disease.

*Sushi with wasabi. Known as Japanese horseradish, wasabi contains isothiocyanates that inhibit the growth of cavitycausing S. mutans, according to preliminary research.

3. Avoid Soda—of Any Kind! In 2003, the average American consumed over 45 gallons of soda per year, according to General Dentistry magazine. You might think that lemon-lime sodas are better than colas or that diet soda is better than regular, but the sad truth is that no soda is OK for your teeth.

Most sodas contain huge amounts of glucose, fructose, sucrose, and other simple sugars. As you sip your soda, the bacteria in your mouth dance with joy. The longer you take to finish your drink, the happier they are. Carbonated soft drinks also contain acids that can harm teeth, such as citric and phosphoric acid. One recent study that rated the effect of 20 different soft drinks on tooth enamel found that diet sodas were less erosive than their sugary cousins, but they were still harmful for teeth. The most erosive sodas in the study were 7Up, Coke, Squirt, Pepsi, and RC Cola. The least harmful were root beer and Diet Coke.

4. Take That Mug off Your Desk: We have a tendency to sip drinks all day. With breakfast, we drink juice. At the office, we may have our own mug by the office coffeepot. On the run, we grab a sports drink. Before a presentation, we drink vitamin water. At a game, we drink soda. At a picnic, we have iced tea. When we start feeling tired, we have a caffeinated drink to stay alert.

All these nonsoda drinks can wreak havoc on your teeth. Sweetened sports drinks, energy drinks, iced teas, and lemonades all feed the bacteria that can cause irreversible damage to your dental enamel. Flavor additives such as malic, tartaric, and other organic acids are aggressive about eroding teeth.

If you must drink something other than water or green tea, use a straw. If you sip acidic drinks through a straw aimed toward the back of your mouth, your teeth are less likely to come into contact with erosive chemicals, which help preserve the enamel.

5. Watch out for Foods That Stain Your Teeth: The following foods and beverages can stain teeth:

*Tea, iced tea drinks
*Red wine
*Colored juices, such as grape juice and cranberry juice
*Cola drinks
*Dark sauces such as soy sauce
*Balsamic vinegar

And, of course, let’s not forget the worst culprit of all: smoking, which turns teeth brown.

6. Avoid Dry Mouth: “Dry mouth” sounds a little silly until it happens to you. Considered one of the leading causes of dental disease, dry mouth occurs when you don’t have enough saliva to keep your mouth moist, to neutralize acids in your mouth, and to rinse away food particles from between your teeth. Dry mouth is no joke, because it is a leading cause of tooth decay. Certain medications can cause dry mouth, as can alcohol. Hormonal changes can influence saliva production as well.

To keep the inside of your mouth wet, chew sugarless gum and drink more water (as well as green tea). A glass of water after a meal will help wash away food particles and decay-causing bacteria, but, unlike most beverages, it won’t introduce new sugars to your mouth or add calories to your diet. Plus, water can help you feel full and lose weight.

7. Avoid Those Little Bites That Break Teeth: Ice, peanut brittle, and popcorn kernels are all hard on teeth. If your teeth have any weak spots, chomping on something hard could snap off a tooth fragment. Ice and tooth enamel are both crystalline. When you knock two crystals together, the weaker one usually breaks. Sometimes that could be your tooth!

8. Drink More Green Tea: Because green tea is made from unfermented leaves, it contains greater amounts of polyphenols (and less caffeine) than black tea does. Green tea polyphenols prevent plaque from adhering to your teeth and inhibit the growth of the bacteria that can then cause tooth decay. Also, green tea contains natural fluoride, which helps protect tooth enamel from decay.


What to Eat (and Drink) for a Sensational Smile

*Keep the inside of your mouth hydrated by drinking water or chewing gum.

*Drink lots of my beauty beverage, green tea.

*Eat plenty of the nutrients you need to nourish your healthy, pink gums and to keep your teeth strong and bright: calcium,vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin C, and omega-3 fatty acids.

*Eat sticky carbohydrates with your main meals, so the particles will get scrubbed off your teeth.

*Choose snacks that wash easily off the teeth.

*Avoid sipping drinks throughout the day. If you must drink something other than water or green tea, use a straw.

*To keep your teeth their whitest, avoid foods that stain.

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