Nutrition and Oral Health

LAST UPDATED: October 06, 2017

Good nutrition improves your oral health

Dental readiness means keeping your mouth healthy. EVERYTHING you put in your mouth affects your oral health. Protect yourself against mouth pain, infection, and loose or missing teeth which can impair your ability to eat high performance, high-fiber foods like fresh fruits and vegetables.

Food choices and oral health
Food and Beverage Choices Oral Health Benefit
Milk, yogurt, and cheese Contains calcium, which hardens the outer surfaces of teeth and protects the jaw bones that hold teeth in place.
Foods and beverages fortified with calcium (orange juice, cereal, non-dairy milk)
Soy (soybeans, soy milk, tofu)
Green leafy vegetables (spinach, greens, kale)
Milk and yogurt fortified with vitamin D Contains vitamin D, which helps with absorption of calcium and is necessary for bone growth.
Fish (tuna, salmon, sardines)
Eggs
Cereals and grains fortified with vitamin D
Fruits and vegetables Contain magnesium and vitamins B and C that repair the lining of the mouth, maintain healthy gums, prevent cavities, and help produce enough saliva to protect the mouth from germs.
Proteins (meats, eggs, fish, nuts, dried beans) Contain zinc, iron, and B vitamins needed to keep gums and the lining of the mouth healthy and prevent plaque and tartar buildup.

Eat the right way to prevent tooth decay

  • Combine treats, juice, soda or sugary drinks with meals.
  • Limit snacks containing sugars and starches.
  • Eat foods rich in calcium and vitamin D at least 3 times a day.
  • Eat at least 8 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, with at least 5 of them being brightly colored (red, yellow, and orange). One serving is about half a cup.
  • Eat high quality proteins (e.g. meats, eggs, and fish) at least 2 times a day.
  • Eat high fiber, whole grain breads or cereals instead of foods made with white flour.
  • Drink water right after snacking.
  • Eat only high-performance snacks between meals.

When choosing snacks, think about…

  • How often you eat sugary and starchy snacks. The more you eat these snacks, the higher your risk of tooth decay.
  • How long the snack stays in your mouth. Starchy and sticky foods stay on your teeth longer, leaving more time to make acid that can cause cavities.
  • Picking sugar-free gum or candy.
  • Picking Xylitol® gum or mints. Xylitol® is a natural sweetener. It blocks cavity-causing bacteria from making acid (which causes tooth decay), decreases plaque formation, and helps harden weakened teeth. Chew Xylitol®-containing gum after each meal or snack for 3–5 minutes.

Drink the right way to prevent tooth decay

  • Avoid dehydration. Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.
  • Choose water or non-fat milk over sports/energy drinks and soda.
  • Unsweetened tea (black or green) can protect against gum disease and tooth decay.
  • Limit sugar-sweetened or acidic beverages (e.g. soda, punch, juice) to 12oz per day.
  • If you drink juice, choose 100% fruit juice that is calcium-fortified.
  • Drink sugar-sweetened or acidic drinks quickly to minimize contact time with your teeth.
  • If you drink sugary or acidic drinks, make sure they are cold and use a straw that reaches to the back of your tongue to keep the drink away from your teeth.
  • Drink water after sugary or acidic drinks to rinse the acids off your teeth.

Use of trademarked name(s) does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Army, but is intended only to assist in identification of specific products.

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