We all know the basics of good oral hygeine: brushing and flossing daily, and visiting your dentist for regular checkups. But did you know that the food you eat and drink also has a big impact on your oral health? You may see your dentist twice a year, brush twice and floss once a day, but if you are not eating the right foods, you could be damaging your teeth and gums. You may think that eating healthy and avoiding fatty junk foods and sugary sodas are all you need to do to keep yourself healthy. But it’s very important to keep your dental health in mind, as well. The same foods that are good for the rest of your body may not be very good for your teeth. We’ll list the do’s and don’t’s to keep your mouth healthy and happy. The Good Stuff Crunchy Vegetables and Fruits – Crunchy veggies and fruits, such as celery, carrots, and apples, require more chewing than softer foods. All this chewing causes your mouth to produce more saliva, which helps to reduce the bacteria that form plaque. This is why celery is sometimes called “nature’s toothbrush”! Milk – Milk, as we all know, does a body good. But it also does a mouth good, because the calcium and other minerals it contains build strong teeth and bones, including jaw bones. Tap Water – Bottled water may be all the rage, but the truth is that tap water is very beneficial to your dental health. Almost all tap water contains fluoride, which strengthens teeth. Fluoride is one of the things that bottled water companies work so hard to remove. Tea – A University of Illinois study found that drinking black tea reduces the amount, size, and stickiness of the plaque in your mouth. The Not-So-Good Stuff Dried Fruit – Your doctor may encourage you to add more fruit to your diet, but your dentist will probably discourage dried fruit. Dried apricots, prunes, figs, mangos, and pineapples are full of natural sugar, and the stickiness will become stuck between your teeth. Dark Foods – Red wine, tea, and coffee are indulgences for a lot of people, but those drinks, as well as foods like yellow curry and dark tomato sauce, can have an effect on the whiteness of your teeth over time. Citrus Fruits – Citrus fruits like lemons or limes can add great flavor to a variety of dishes, and some people even find sucking on a lemon to be refreshing. This is not a good move for your teeth, however, as the acids in these citrus fruits will slowly eat away the enamel of your teeth. Other acidic foods like tomatoes and vinegar have this same effect. Sports Drinks You may love the energy boost that energy drinks provide you with during the day, but a big reason for that energy boost is sugar. Energy drinks contain a lot of sugar, and are highly acidic, and drinking them without rinsing with water afterward puts you at risk for tooth decay. Starchy Foods Starchy foods are often the most crave-able snacks, but they can get trapped between your teeth. Starchy foods convert into sugar, which will be a delicious snack for the bacteria in your mouth, leading to tooth decay. Your oral health does not just affect your mouth, it can affect the health and well-being of your entire body. Studies suggest that oral bacteria, and periodontitis (severe gum disease,) might play a role in some diseases. Poor oral health can contribute to endocarditis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, and can make pregnant women deliver early, to babies with a low birth weight. It takes very little time and effort to practice good oral health, and the benefits of doing so make it well worthwhile. So in addition to your brushing and flossing, make sure you are mindful of the food and drinks you are putting into your mouth.