An avo a day: Here’s what to eat to keep the dentist away

Trips to the dentist are never fun. Here, we speak to Dr. Steven Lin about what to eat to have healthy, happy teeth. 

There are swathes of information out there about what to eat and what not to eat for heart health, to fight ageing or the flu, even what to eat to prepare for mental challenges like a job interview.

But what about the best things to eat to ensure our smiles are brilliant, bright and beaming with health?

We met dentist Dr. Steven Lin to discuss a few of the common mistakes we make when it comes to caring for our teeth and learn about the food we should enjoy every day to perfect our pearly whites. 

Let's start at the beginning. Why is a good diet important for our teeth - even when we brush, floss, and gargle with mouthwash?

Mouthwash can destroy probiotic bacteria in your mouth that protects against dental disease. We should be using foods to diversify our oral bacteria, not simply kill them off. Food is the number one way to prevent dental disease. Our bodies have the complete capability to prevent conditions if we feed it the right thing!

Orthodontic braces are not a genetic problem, but a nutritional and functional issue. It’s a sign that our jaws don’t grow properly. Gum disease and bleeding gums aren’t just a flossing issue, it’s a digestive issue and immune system issue.

Similarly, wisdom teeth shouldn’t need to be removed. Just like crooked teeth, wisdom teeth don’t fit when our jaw doesn’t grow as it should.

So what sorts of food should we avoid?

Refined flour is problematic and is typically found in bread, pasta, and white rice. The flour behaves in a similar way to sugar in the body, hence it’s not an ideal ingredient for your oral health.

While everything in moderation will always be key, make sure you limit your intake and check out the packages while shopping to aim for wholegrain and wholemeal varieties.

And what are some things we should be eating?

Avocado is certainly having its day in the sun and I’m about to add yet another reason to have your avo a day.

Avocado is a food that is known for its ability to strengthen teeth along with other key foods like spinach and sauerkraut, making them fantastic foods to consume for good oral health. Reason being – an avocado’s flesh is full of prebiotic fiber, feeding probiotic bacteria in your oral and gut microbiome and promoting healthy digestion.

Pro tip: the dark green Hass variety has more fiber than the lighter green Florida avocados, so if you’re looking to max your fiber, go for the Hass.

Everyone knows that they need to lay off the sugar if they want a brighter, whiter smile. However, what's not commonly known is that foods that make you chew will benefit your teeth. A serving of raw fruit and vegetables a day will do wonders for your smile. As will plenty of bone-building elements from calcium-rich sources like almonds and kale.

Lastly, what are your top tips for smile upkeep?

  1. Brush for 2 minutes, day and night. 30 seconds isn't enough!
  2. But don't brush too hard. It's extremely common for people to brush their teeth aggressively - they want to make sure they're giving their teeth a proper clean. Unfortunately, this only has negative outcomes, with worn down enamel and receding gums being the two biggest issues
  3. Don't brush straight after meals. While it may seem like best practice to brush immediately after eating, you're actually doing more harm than good. Brushing after eating very acidic foods or beverages (like coffee and fruit) can weaken and wear away tooth enamel.
  4. Try out new teeth technology. Like the Philips Sonicare smart toothbrushes, which connect to a mobile app allowing users to receive real-time feedback about their brushing habits – going miles beyond the results you can get from a manual toothbrush.

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