Last updated: July 09. 2013 1:54PM - 1010 Views

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According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 of every 4 adults older than 65 has no natural teeth. Which makes it a drag to eat corn-on-the-cob.

Why is nutrition important for our teeth? Because nutrients maintain strong teeth, and strong teeth maintain our ability to get nutrients. Here’s the latest on this topic from a recent position paper by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

Bacteria that live in our mouth love sugar. When they feed on “fermentable carbohydrates,” they produce acids that destroy the protective mineral coating of tooth enamel. And they produce enzymes that attack proteins in the teeth. Result: weak, decayed teeth. Yuck.

Here’s the good news: Some foods and food ingredients actually can protect our teeth from decay.

Sugar-free chewing gum. Chewing stimulates saliva that bathes teeth with antibacterial agents that neutralize bad acids in your mouth. And the sweeteners used in sugar-free candies and mints—such as xylitol and mannitol—do not feed mouth bacteria.

Fresh fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C in these foods is used to make collagen—a vital protein for healthy gums … the better to support your teeth. And chewing these fibrous foods keep gums healthy and produces protective saliva.

Protein foods such as meat, eggs, cheese, fish, beans and legumes strengthen teeth and gums. Proteins also arm saliva with its antibacterial properties.

Whole-grain, low-sugar breads and cereals provide a host of nutrients that enhance our immune response to fight off pesky bacteria.

So here’s the formula to grow up with all your teeth like my grandmother: Chew, chew, chew your food to stimulate saliva. Don’t let sugar hang out too often with the bacteria in your mouth. And yes dear, you must brush your teeth after you eat, with a fluoride-containing toothpaste. If you can’t brush right away, chew a piece of sugar-free gum.

— Barbara Quinn, Monterey County Herald

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