The outer surface of your teeth is called enamel, and it’s made up of highly concentrated minerals that protect the more sensitive inner tissues of each tooth. Tooth enamel strengthens teeth and helps you chew and begin digesting harder foods. When enamel breakdown starts taking place, your teeth are left vulnerable to cavities and infections. Fortunately, there are many foods you can easily add to your diet that help keep your tooth enamel strong.
10 Common Foods and Beverages That Strengthen Tooth Enamel
Celery is considered an "abrasive" food due to its high fiber content — think of its strings and ribs — and it can help protect your enamel by cleaning the surface of your teeth thanks to its rougher texture. Its fibrous nature also requires a longer chewing time, which can make your mouth secrete more saliva that in turn helps prevent enamel breakdown. Your gums, the health of which is also integral to healthy tooth enamel, get massaged during the chewing process, which ensures good blood flow.
Strawberries are full of antioxidants and vitamin C, both of which are important for maintaining your overall oral health. Strawberries also have a natural exfoliating effect due to their malic acid content and can help whiten teeth while removing enamel-harming tartar. Incorporating strawberries into a balanced daily diet may help keep your tooth enamel healthy.
Most brands of sugarless chewing gum contain a sweetener called xylitol, which has been associated with lower levels of oral bacteria and prevention of cavities. Some sugarless gums also contain fluoride that helps to strengthen enamel. And, as with celery, the act of chewing can work to increase your production of saliva, combatting dry mouth and helping to keep your enamel strong and healthy.
Tuna and Salmon
Getting enough vitamin D in your diet is necessary so your body can effectively absorb calcium, which is an essential element of tooth enamel. Therefore, maintaining vitamin D levels in your body by eating foods such as tuna, salmon or egg yolks can help to strengthen the enamel layer of your teeth.
Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, kefir and cheese have plenty of calcium and phosphorus, both of which strengthen tooth enamel and help with remineralization — the natural process of rebuilding enamel. Some of these foods also contain probiotics, which are healthy microorganisms that can further protect your teeth and gums against the harmful effects of bacteria. If you’re lactose intolerant, try enriched soymilk; it also contains high levels of calcium.
Meat or Tofu
Most animal proteins, such as chicken and beef, contain phosphorus, which is a mineral that’s essential for healthy tooth enamel. Phosphorus, along with calcium and vitamin D, work together to maintain healthy bones and teeth. Tofu is an alternative option for vegetarians, as it contains a good amount of protein, and most types also have calcium and magnesium.
Drinking water helps clean your mouth, as it washes away trapped debris between your teeth that can serve as a breeding ground for bacteria that harm enamel. It’s advisable to swish and rinse your mouth with water after drinking or eating highly acidic or enamel-dissolving foods, such as alcohol, coffee or citrus, to keep harsh foods from dissolving your tooth enamel. Staying hydrated also helps your immune system potentially ward off gum disease, which can be detrimental to enamel.
Sesame seeds are similar to celery in that they’re also abrasive and can help "brush" the surface of your teeth and remove bacteria-causing debris. They’re also high in calcium and phosphorus, which are important for bone and tooth formation. Sesame seeds are easy to incorporate into your diet; toss a handful of toasted sesame seeds onto a salad, sprinkle them on avocado toast or blend some into a smoothie for improved enamel protection.
Naturally high in antioxidants, almost all tea leaves also contain fluoride. This mineral protects tooth enamel from decay. Black tea contains especially high fluoride levels. Green tea also contains the antioxidant polyphenol, which can play a role in preventing cavities. As an added bonus, freshly brewed tea may also help eliminate bad breath.
Essential for bone growth and mineral absorption, vitamin K can help strengthen tooth enamel when paired with vitamin D. Cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens such as broccoli and kale are high in vitamin K and other immune-boosting nutrients that can contribute to healthier gums and teeth. Other great sources of this vitamin include egg yolks, chicken, hard cheeses, hazelnuts and butter.
Medical content reviewed by Madeline Hubbard, RN, BSN