When it comes to oral health, there is much to be said about preventative care to reduce or eliminate the need for major interventions in dental care.
In addition to maintaining a good oral hygiene regimen (brushing, rinsing, and flossing on a daily basis,) there are plenty of natural strategies that improve dental health and reduce the likelihood of a visit to the dentist.
In fact, some of the most inexpensive and time-tested dental health solutions are readily available at home or can be bought at your local grocery store.
Surprised? Let’s take a look at some of the aisles where you’re most likely to find common, yet highly effective natural remedies, so you can get your dental health back on track.
The Produce Section
When you go grocery shopping, make sure you load up in the produce section.
It’s fairly well-known that many fruits and vegetables are jam-packed with minerals and nutrients that are not only essential for good oral health, but also boost our immune system, keep us slim, and enhance the youthful glow of our skin.
For oral health and overall wellbeing it’s essential to maintain balance between raw and cooked vegetable meals.
Start by adding a few crunchy fruits and veggies in between meals – snacking on apples, pears, carrots, and cucumbers will strengthen your jaw muscles, scrub off bacteria and plaque, and decrease the risk of muscle weakness in the mouth and facial areas.
Moreover, essential antioxidants found in green leafy vegetables, carrots, and berries will delay cell oxidation and deter many age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration, cataracts, cognitive impairment, and cardiovascular disease.
Your next stop should be along the dairy aisle, where you’ll find more healthy options.
Packed with calcium and proteins, dairy products are essential for strong teeth, protecting the tooth enamel and preventing erosion.
Milk, hard cheeses, yogurt, and cottage cheese are all great additions to help you maintain a healthy mouth. Plus, milk is also a rich source of vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium easier—a double whammy.
But where should you get the recommended dose of calcium and vitamins from if you’re lactose intolerant or simply don’t care too much for milk?
Fortunately, nuts and seeds, beans, canned fish, vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, and kale, or blackstrap molasses are all excellent, calcium-rich, lactose-free choices. Introducing these foods into your diet will allow you to reap the benefits of calcium without the health risks associated with consuming too much dairy.
The Meat, Poultry, and Seafood Counters
Wondering what meats, poultry, and seafood products might benefit your oral health?
Good news: most of them have been proven to increase the body’s resilience against gum disease and cavities, making teeth stronger and less sensitive.
Start at the fish counter, where loading up on wild salmon can be a major boon to your dental health.
Salmon is a food rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, including the often-touted DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), a substance well-known for its positive effects on brain health, fetal development, and the prevention of periodontitis and gum disease.
However, it’s important to distinguish between wild salmon and farmed salmon. Wild-caught salmon contains a significantly greater density of good fats and minerals, so stay away from the farmed variety whenever possible.
Next head over to the butcher’s counter, where you’ll find lean cuts of pork, beef, chicken, and turkey which can all help support your dental health.
Chewing meat helps to scrub off food particles and bacteria from teeth, while its high iron and vitamin levels make it beneficial for your overall health, as well.
The Household & Sundries Aisles
Not to be outdone, there are plenty of items in the “Other” section of the grocery store that can support your dental health.
These include baking soda, sea salt, and hydrogen peroxide, all of which can be combined with water (together or separately) to make natural oral rinses and effective toothpaste alternatives.
For dental patients suffering from mouth sores, irritated gums, or even sore throats, rinsing with saltwater can help soothe pain and reduce inflammation.
Hydrogen peroxide is also a natural alternative to commercial teeth whitening solutions, visibly improving the appearance of your pearly whites without undergoing any chemical process.
Aisles to Avoid
Of course, not everything in the grocery store supports your dental health.
Candy, sugary drinks, sweetened cereals, and even foods high in carbohydrates such as bread and pasta should be avoided as much as possible.
These foods leave sugary residue (or break down into something similar) and can cause everything from cavities to gum disease and tooth decay.
Even some vegetables and fruits with high levels of acidity should be consumed in limited quantities to avoid damaging tooth enamel.
While this isn’t an exhaustive list of grocery store items that promote good dental health, it hopefully helps provide some insight into how to better utilize everyday natural resources to keep dental problems at bay for a long time.
With this in mind, next time you find yourself perusing the aisles at your local store, remember that you’re not just buying food to feed your stomach—your decisions have a tremendous impact on your whole self, starting with the teeth.
About the Author
Dr. Jeffrey Pass, DDS, has been in private practice since 1987 and emphasizes cosmetic, restorative, and implant dentistry. A graduate of NYU College of Dentistry, Dr. Pass practiced privately in Manhattan, NY prior to establishing South Florida Dental Care in 1993. He regularly attends continuing education classes and is a member of the American Dental Association, South Florida District Dental Association, South Broward Dental Society, and the Florida branch of The Seattle Study Club.