Dental cavities are prevalent in the U.S. Even though tooth decay is largely preventable, 92 percent of adults aged 20 to 64 have had cavities in their permanent teeth. The good news is that you can significantly lower your risk of developing dental cavities simply by adding certain foods to your diet and maintaining good oral hygiene.
Believe it or not, drinking black coffee helps protect your teeth from cavities. According to one 2009 study, those who drink an average of three cups of black coffee daily (with no additives) may have fewer cavities than people who don’t drink coffee. However, drinking coffee that contains sugar or creamer will increase your risk of developing cavities, so drink your coffee black or stick to water for cavity prevention.
Tea, especially green and black tea, also lowers your risk of forming cavities, according to a 2013 review. Authors of the review explain that tea prevents cavities because it contains fluoride (known to reduce cavities), has antibacterial properties, inhibits certain cavity-causing digestive enzymes and reduces acid production during digestion. However, steer clear of sweet tea to keep your teeth cavity-free.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and veggies are loaded with water and fiber, which can help clean your teeth, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Eating fruits and vegetables also promotes saliva production—another defense against cavities. Aim to eat at least one serving of fruits or vegetables at each meal. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest eating 2.5 cups of veggies and 2 cups of fruit a day, based on a 2,000-calorie daily diet.
Most seafood is also a source of cavity-preventing fluoride. This is because the ocean contains natural sodium fluoride, which gets into the bodies of sea animals. Examples of fluoride-rich seafood include shrimp, crab and ocean fish.
It’s a good idea to include peanuts in your diet when you’re trying to avoid cavities, according to one 2012 review. One reason for this is that nuts are rich in fiber, a natural anti-cavity nutrient. However, avoid nuts sweetened with added sugar.
Sugar-Free Candy Containing Xylitol
Eating candy generally increases your cavity risk, but sugar-free candy containing xylitol appears to do just the opposite. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that tastes sweet like sugar but is calorie-free. One 2014 review found that xylitol appears to help reduce cavities and may reverse the process of early cavity formation. Xylitol is found in sugar-free candies, gums, syrups and mouth rinses.
Although raisins are sweet, they may help reduce your risk of developing cavities. One 2013 review notes that raisins are rich in phytochemicals, which help prevent cavity-forming bacteria from growing on your teeth. The review recommends choosing unsweetened raisins instead of those with added sugar.
You may not think of dairy foods as important for cavity prevention, but cheese, milk and yogurt appear to be just that. A 2012 review reports that cheese stimulates saliva production and has anti-cavity properties. Calcium, casein and phosphorous found in cow’s milk also inhibit cavity formation.
Drinking fluoridated tap water (water containing fluoride) reduces cavities by at least 25 percent, according to the ADA. Some bottled water also contains fluoride. The International Bottled Water Association provides a list of companies that make bottled water containing fluoride and links to online water-quality reports.
Adding anti-cavity foods to your diet won’t guarantee you’ll be cavity-free, but it significantly lowers your risk of developing cavities when coupled with good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups.