Joy Bauer Life is hard, food should be easy Sun, 14 Feb 2016 20:29:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Basics of Healthy Teeth Sun, 14 Feb 2016 15:42:43 +0000 Many don't know the facts about dental health — or the important role that food plays.

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There’s more to dental health than bright white teeth. With a few changes to your diet and dental routine, you can help protect and strengthen your pearly whites.

Many of us are more concerned with how our smiles look than how healthy our teeth are. Don’t believe me? Take a look at these numbers: About 80 percent of adults have some form of periodontal disease, which often goes untreated. Most people don’t even floss every day, let alone visit the dentist regularly. On the other hand, tooth whitening is a booming business, a market estimated to be about $1 billion in the United States alone.

But there’s much more to dental health than having white teeth. To truly have healthy teeth, you’ll need to learn some unpleasant truths about the dynamics of food, plaque, decay, tartar, and gum disease. None of it is pretty — except for your teeth, which can shine with just a few changes to your diet and dental routine.


A tooth has a structure similar to a Tootsie Pop. As just about anyone knows, a Tootsie Pop has a hard lollipop outer shell, a soft Tootsie Roll center, and a supporting stick that extends out from the middle of the pop. A tooth has a hard enamel outer shell, a softer dentin center, and a root canal that extends from the middle of the tooth into the jaw. This root canal contains nerves and blood vessels that feed the tooth and keep it alive.

Enamel surrounds the exposed part of the tooth, stopping just inside the gum line. Made primarily of calcium, it is the hardest substance in the body — harder, even, than bone. But unlike bone, enamel cannot regenerate. If the outer shell is breached, the inner part of the tooth becomes vulnerable and can erode down to the root. That’s why any cracks or areas of decay need to be filled by a dentist.

Just under the enamel is the dentin, which contains millions of fluid-filled tubules, tiny canals that lead to the extremely sensitive nerve. When the protective enamel wears away, you’ve got trouble. Cavities, cracks, gum recession, tooth-grinding, brushing too hard, or even eating too many acidic foods can all provide access to the tubules and consequently a tooth’s nerve center. Hot foods, cold drinks, sugar, or even sudden puffs of air can ride the tubules into the core of your tooth. Anyone with tooth sensitivity knows that it is both uncomfortable and embarrassing — there’s nothing sexy about that pained grimace after a sip of ice water.

So the first key to good tooth health is keeping your enamel shell strong. That can be a challenge all by itself. Consider this: Every minute of every day, our teeth are collecting a film of plaque — a combination of naturally occurring mouth bacteria, food sugars, and other substances. Food sugars come not just from the obvious sources — the sugar in candy, soda, and other sweets — but also from the natural sugars created during the breakdown of fruits, whole grain foods, and other carbohydrates. All these sugars feed the bacteria, which, in turn, produce acid that leeches calcium salts from enamel and weakens it. The process is called demineralization. As long as the bacteria and sugars remain in your mouth, the acid level will remain high — which is why sticky foods like raisins, jam, or gummy bears can wreak havoc on enamel long after you finish eating.

Once you stop eating a meal and clear food remnants out of your mouth (by, say, brushing), acid levels remain high for about 30 minutes or so before your saliva slowly returns everything back to normal. If you sip sugary drinks or snack continuously, your teeth may remain bathed in acid all day long, and if you have dry mouth from low saliva flow, the acid remains higher longer.

Plaque remains on the teeth unless you brush or floss it away. After about 24 hours, the soft plaque begins to harden into tartar, which cannot be removed by simple brushing. If tartar forms at or under the gum line, it can cause the gums (also called gingival) to become inflamed, causing redness, puffiness, and bad breath. This inflammation (or gingivitis) might not sound like a big deal—until you take the long view. Gingivitis is just the first stage of gum disease. Teeth are embedded in the jaw, held in place by connective tissue and surrounded by your gums. If tartar is not removed, toxins destroy the connective tissue and bacteria can invade the bone around your teeth, creating infection and causing bone loss (a condition known as periodontal disease). If periodontal disease is left untreated, the tooth becomes unanchored, loosens, and eventually falls out. For healthy teeth, then, start with some basic dental hygiene:

  • Limit the number of sugary foods (and low-quality carbohydrates) you eat during the day. Dried fruits, crackers, pretzels, cookies, and other foods that get stuck on or between teeth can be particularly devastating to enamel over time. Lollipops and hard candies are also detrimental since they bathe your back teeth in sugars for prolonged periods of time.
  • Limit your number of “eating episodes” during the day. If you nibble on something every 30 minutes, your mouth will always contain acid, and your enamel will be under constant attack. Of course, eating every few hours is normal and perfectly fine.
  • Avoid sugary drinks, including sodas, fruit juices, overly-sweetened coffee or tea, and sweetened waters. Many dentists also recommend avoiding all sugar-free diet beverages because they often contain citric, malic, or phosphoric acids that can be damaging to your teeth. If you must drink them, use a straw to bypass your teeth.
  • Brush your teeth after every meal. If you cannot brush, at least rinse your mouth with water to remove some food debris. Chewing sugarless gum can also help.
  • Floss at least once a day to remove food particles and plaque between teeth.
  • Visit the dentist at least once a year for a professional cleaning, or more frequently if your dentist recommends it. Many dentists recommend twice yearly visits to keep on top of tartar, but some people who are more susceptible to tooth decay and/or tartar build-up may need to go even more often.

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Healthy Teeth Basics: How Food Affects Teeth Sun, 14 Feb 2016 15:40:48 +0000 Though it may seem like tooth care is all about what not to eat, there are some foods that contribute to a healthy smile.

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Though it may seem like tooth care is all about what not to eat, there are some foods that contribute to a healthy smile.


Most people understand that calcium and vitamin D are important for strong bones, but many of us fail to make the connection between our bones and our teeth. Teeth are embedded in the jaw bone, so if its bone density falls, your teeth won’t have a firm footing. If periodontal disease sets in, a strong jaw-bone will be your first defense against tooth loss.

In addition, a calcium-poor diet seems to increase the overall risk of developing periodontal disease. Research has shown that women who get less than 500 milligrams of calcium per day from their diets have a 54 percent greater risk of periodontal disease compared with those who get more than 800 milligrams of calcium per day. Calcium cannot be absorbed and used by bone without vitamin D, so it is important to eat foods rich in both nutrients. Women of all ages who don’t get enough calcium through diet should consider taking a supplement that contains calcium plus D3 (cholecalciferol, the most potent form of vitamin D).

BEST FOODS FOR CALCIUM:Yogurt (fat-free, low-fat), milk (fat-free, 1% low-fat), soy milk, cheese (fat-free, reduced-fat), tofu with calcium (check nutrition label), soybeans (edamame), frozen yogurt (fat-free, low-fat), low-fat ice cream, bok choy, kale, white beans, collard greens, broccoli, almonds and almond butter

BEST FOODS FOR VITAMIN D:Wild salmon (fresh, canned), mackerel (not king), sardines, herring, milk (fat-free, 1% low-fat), soy milk, fortified yogurt (fat-free, low-fat), egg yolks, vitamin D-enhanced mushrooms


Vitamin C is critical for keeping gums healthy because it strengthens blood vessels and the connective tissue that holds your teeth in your jaw. The antioxidant properties of vitamin C also help reduce inflammation, which may help prevent or slow the progression of gingivitis. In one study, researchers found that people who did not get enough vitamin C in their diets had about a 20 percent greater risk of developing periodontal disease than people who ate plenty of vitamin C–rich produce.

BEST FOODS FOR VITAMIN C:Guava, bell peppers (all colors), oranges and orange juice, grapefruit and grapefruit juice, strawberries, pineapple, kohlrabi, papaya, lemons and lemon juice, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, kidney beans, kiwi, cantaloupe, cauliflower, cabbage (all varieties), mangoes, white potato, mustard greens, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, snow peas, clementines, rutabagas, turnip greens, raspberries, blackberries, watermelon, tangerines, okra, lychees, summer squash, persimmons


Water not only helps wash away food debris that can get trapped in teeth, it also helps keep saliva levels high. Saliva is your body’s best defense against tooth decay because its proteins and minerals counteract enamel-eating acids, keeping your teeth strong. That’s why people with dry mouth, no matter what the cause, need to see the dentist more frequently than others. If you have dry mouth, hard candies can be disastrous! Chew sugarless gum instead. Saliva is more than 95 percent water, so stay hydrated throughout the day to keep its flow constant.

If plain water bores you, try unsweetened green tea. Green tea is rich in antioxidants called catechins, which inhibit the growth of bacteria that initiate periodontal disease and break down gum tissue. A 2009 study found that Japanese men who regularly consumed green tea had healthier gums than men who were less frequent tea drinkers. For each additional cup of green tea consumed, markers of gum health improved, suggesting that regularly sipping green tea (unsweetened, of course!) can promote dental health and help ward off gum disease.

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