Teeth health: The five food groups to eat from – ‘helps wash foods from the mouth’

Teeth health: The five food groups to eat from – ‘helps wash foods from the mouth’

Michael Mosley discusses the improved quality of liquid diets

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The NHS says wine, cigarette smoke, tea and coffee are all “teeth-staining culprits” so it is a good idea to keep them to a minimum to stop your teeth becoming stained. The health body adds: “You may assume you should have a dental check-up every six months, but some people may not need to go so often and others may need more frequent checks.”

The American Dental Association (ADA) says for good dental health it is a good idea to eat a variety of foods from each of the five major food groups.

These include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean sources of protein such as lean beef, skinless poultry and fish; dry beans, peas and other legumes and low-fat and fat-free dairy foods.

The organisation suggests: “Limit the number of snacks you eat. If you do snack, choose something that is healthy like fruit or vegetables or a piece of cheese.

“Foods that are eaten as part of a meal cause less harm to teeth than eating lots of snacks throughout the day, because more saliva is released during a meal.”

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The ADA says: “Saliva helps wash foods from the mouth and lessens the effects of acids, which can harm teeth and cause cavities.”

Indeed, the organisation explains tooth decay happens when plaque comes into contact with sugar in the mouth, causing acid to attack the teeth.

It states: “Foods that contain sugars of any kind can contribute to tooth decay. To control the amount of sugar you eat, read the nutrition facts and ingredient labels on foods and beverages and choose options that are lowest in sugar.”

It adds: “Severe gum disease is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Many researchers believe that the disease progresses faster and is potentially more severe in people with poor nutrition.”


The NHS says limiting the amount of sugar you eat and drink is important to prevent tooth decay.

It adds a lot of the sugars we eat and drink are in food and drinks such as:

  • sweets, chocolate, cakes and biscuits
  • sugary drinks, including soft drinks, fizzy drinks, milky drinks with added sugar, and alcohol
  • fruit juice, including unsweetened fresh fruit juice and smoothies
  • buns, pastries and fruit pies
  • sponge puddings and other puddings
  • table sugar added to food or drinks, such as tea
  • sugary breakfast cereals
  • jams, marmalades, honey and syrups
  • ice cream and sorbets
  • dried fruit or fruit in syrup
  • syrups and sweet sauces

As well as considering your diet, the NHS says: “Brushing your teeth twice a day (last thing at night before you go to bed and on one other occasion) with fluoride toothpaste and having regular check-ups with a dentist can help to keep your teeth healthy.”

It adds: “Smoking can stain your teeth yellow, cause bad breath, and increases your risk of gum disease, as well as causing many other serious health problems.”

It adds: “Alcohol can also erode the outer surface of the teeth, leading to a loss of enamel. If this happens, you may need to go to the dentist for a filling.”

The health body also warns that it is estimated that heavy drinkers and smokers have a 38 times increased risk of developing mouth cancer than people who neither drink nor smoke.

The National Institutes of Health says: “Teeth are covered in a hard, outer coating called enamel.

“Every day, a thin film of bacteria called dental plaque builds up on your teeth.

“The bacteria in plaque produce acids that can harm enamel and cause cavities.

“Brushing and flossing your teeth can prevent decay, but once a cavity forms, to avoid further damage, a dentist must fix it with a filling.”

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