An apple a day also keeps the dentist away. The fruit acts as a natural toothbrush with every bite, says Hani Thariani, an orthodontist who practices in Arlington and Herndon: “The crispiness of the apple tends to scrape away physical plaque.” Other natural cleaners include crunchy vegetables such as carrots and cucumbers.
More people now consume filtered or bottled water, but dentists warn that some water filters also remove fluoride, a mineral that helps prevent tooth decay. If drinking tap water isn’t ideal, Dr. Alex Naini of Aesthetic Dental Spa in Vienna recommends using a fluoride mouthwash once a day.
To maintain healthy gums, stock up on vitamin-C-rich leafy greens such as kale and spinach. Research shows that people with periodontal disease are typically deficient in vitamin C. The supplement can help prevent bleeding gums.
Milk and Cheese
Dairy products are full of calcium, which keeps teeth strong and healthy. “A lot of people don’t get enough vitamin D and calcium,” Thariani says, and being deficient in either is associated with gum disease. Calcium-rich foods also help prevent tooth decay and enamel erosion because they neutralize acid.
Chew a piece of sugarless gum after every meal, say many dentists. The constant motion produces more saliva, which cleans out food particles and acids. Sugarless gum contains xylitol, a natural sweetener, while regular gum contains cavity-inducing sucrose.