Bombarded on a daily basis by enamel-eroding foods and acid-producing bacteria, your teeth continually counteract these damaging effects by replenishing themselves with calcium and other minerals necessary to keep them strong and healthy. Good oral hygiene and a healthy diet go a long way to helping your teeth help themselves. Certain foods offer particular benefits for promoting remineralizaiton of teeth.
Fermented proteins in yogurt might help prevent dental cavities, according to a study published in the December 2008 "Australian Dental Journal." The proteins, partially digested by bacteria, prevent loss of calcium phosphate on tooth surfaces. In the study, researchers exposed human molar specimens to a procedure that removes minerals from teeth. Those that were also treated with yogurt proteins retained more minerals, indicating that yogurt inhibits demineralization and promotes remineralization of tooth enamel.
A study published in the fall 2012 "Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry" found that milk products with probiotics promote tooth remineralization by inhibiting cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth. In the study, cavity-prone participants, aged 12 to 15 years, consumed probiotic-supplemented milk daily for three weeks. Results showed lower levels of Streptococcus mutans, or S. mutans, a bacterium that secretes acids that strip minerals from teeth and promote cavities. Other food sources of probiotics include kefir, tempeh, miso and sauerkraut.
Polyphenols in green and black tea inhibit acid-producing bacteria in the mouth, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. A study published in a 2007 issue of the journal "Caries Research" found that a group of polyphenols called epicatechins present in tea, grape seed, pine bark and cocoa inhibit S. mutans and other harmful mouth bacteria. Unfermented cocoa, green tea and red grape seed prevented acid production and prevented S. mutans from sticking to glass, implying a potential ability of these foods to provide a similar anti-adhesive benefit for tooth enamel. Raw peanuts and aged cheeses contain substances that help to neutralize demineralizing mouth acids, according to the University of South Alabama Family Medicine Clinic.
Oranges, lemons and grapefruit contain a flavonoid antioxidant called hesperidin that might promote tooth remineralization, according to a study published in the May 2012 "Dental Materials Journal." In the study, researchers exposed human tooth specimens to acidic conditions designed to promote mineral loss and then incubated the teeth with hesperidin. The citrus flavonoid-treated teeth showed less mineral loss compared to a control group. Researchers concluded that hesperidin might improve remineralization regardless of the presence of fluoride, which prevents calcium from being depleted from tooth enamel. Grape seed extract also prevented demineralization but to a lesser extent than hesperidin in this study.
High-Fiber Fruits and Vegetables
High-fiber foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, stimulate your mouth to secrete saliva, which contains remineralizing calcium and phosphate and neutralizes acids and enzymes that can promote mineral loss, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. Lean meats, though not usually regarded as a super food, also promote saliva production, notes Colorado State University Extension.
- Australian Dental Journal: Protective Effect of Yogurt Extract on Dental Enamel Demineralization in Vitro
- University of Rochester Medical Center: The Best and Worst Foods for Your Teeth
- Dental Materials Journal: In Vitro Effect of Hesperidin on Root Dentin Collagen and De/Re-Mineralization
- University of South Alabama Family Medicine Clinic: How to Take Care of Your Teeth
- Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry: Evaluating the Effect of Probiotic Containing Milk on Salivary Mutans Streptococci Levels
- Caries Research: The Antibacterial Activity of Plant Extracts Containing Polyphenols Against Streptococcus Mutans
- Bastyr University: Why You Should be Eating Fermented Foods
- University of South Florida College of Arts and Sciences: Bone Chemistry
Tracey Roizman, DC is a writer and speaker on natural and preventive health care and a practicing chiropractor. She also holds a B.S. in nutritional biochemistry.