How to Pack a Mouth-Healthy Lunch for Work
If you usually have a sandwich and a bag of chips for your work lunch washed down with a soda, you are not likely to be doing either your general or your mouth health much good. Why not swap out some of the more harmful ingredients of your lunch for some nutritious and tasty replacements that care for your body and your mouth?
The Importance of Oral Health
If you don’t look after your teeth, tooth loss is the ultimate destination. Instead of looking forward to a lifetime of dental health, you could be looking at extensive remedial dental work. Root canals, tooth extractions, and other major procedures are not much fun—even if you have the option of sleep dentistry. But, with an effective oral hygiene regime supplemented with regular dental check-ups, any problems can be nipped in the bud before they become major issues.
Without a regular oral hygiene routine, the formation of plaque bacteria in the mouth soon begins to cause problems for teeth and gums. The acid produced by the bacteria erodes tooth enamel and leads to cavities. Additionally, the acid irritates the gum tissue, causing inflammation.
If plaque bacteria are not removed, the teeth become more decayed and the gums begin to recede, exposing tooth roots. As tooth decay progresses, the teeth begin to crumble. Painful infections may occur if the bacteria reach the pulp chamber—the center of the tooth that contains soft tissues, such as nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue.
Gum disease could also become a problem. Increasing amounts of bacteria produce larger quantities of acid, eroding the gums, tooth ligaments, and eventually the parts of the jawbone that hold the teeth.
Mouth-Friendly Foods Minimize the Effects of Plaque Bacteria
Bacterial plaque starts to form in as little as 4 hours after brushing and flossing. Unfortunately, our modern-day habit of snacking throughout the day, as well as drinking sugary drinks, provides the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive.
Most of us are aware that sugar is bad for our teeth, but some seemingly innocuous foods can be just as damaging. Starchy carbohydrates, including bread, potato chips, and pasta can be just as harmful. These foods become sticky when we chew them—so they tend to linger in the mouth. Additionally, they break down into simple sugars that bacteria thrive on and produce acid from.
Add these Mouth-Healthy Foods to Your Packed Lunch
Ditch the sodas and unrefined carbohydrates, such as bread and potato chips. Instead, choose these toothsome alternatives.
Some Cheeses are better than others. Hard cheeses, such as cheddar, will naturally scrape the plaque off teeth. Another benefit of cheese is its high calcium content—which is good for strengthening tooth enamel. Additionally, a study in the journal of the American Academy of General Dentistry found that eating cheese raised pH levels in the mouth, lowering the risk of tooth decay.
Tomatoes are packed with vitamins and contain a flavonoid called lycopene—an antioxidant that protects the gums from inflammation and periodontal disease. They are also rich in vitamin C, which is effective in killing the harmful bacteria in your mouth.
Garlic contains antibacterial properties that help keep gum infections and plaque at bay and has many benefits to general health as well. If you’re a garlic lover, consider cutting up some fresh garlic and adding it to homemade hummus—or even guacamole. Eat with carrot or celery sticks and you will be protecting your teeth too.
Carrots and Celery
Carrots are more than just a crunchy, tasty snack. They’re also good for your teeth! Munching on carrots is like using an all-natural toothbrush. The chewing action massages your gums and cleans plaque from tooth enamel. They are high in vitamin A—a key nutrient in gum and tooth health. Vitamin A is needed in the formation of keratin—a protein found in tooth enamel.
Similarly, celery’s stringiness makes it a good natural toothbrush to scrape plaque from the teeth as you chew. Celery is high in vitamin C which is good for gum health and helps to keep the connective tissues strong.
Fruits such as apples are a great way to get your teeth clean. They are also high in fiber and good for digestion. The biting and chewing actions when eating an apple produces saliva which cleanses the mouth, and its fibrous textures stimulate the gums. Pack either whole or sliced fruit in your lunch for a quick brush at work!
Almonds, Walnuts, and Hazelnuts are perfect for your teeth. They are all packed with minerals and vitamins that strengthen the enamel of our teeth. They also contain magnesium, which can help to relieve toothache.
Other nuts, including Pecans, have the perfect fats to protect us from gum disease as they create a barrier against bad bacteria in the mouth. So, work nuts into your lunch break by replacing your potato chips with them—or add a handful to hummus or a salad.
What makes it good for teeth: It contains antioxidant properties which help to protect the body from potential damage. The tannins in green tea also reduce plaque build-up and neutralize acids that break down tooth enamel. There are more antioxidants in green tea than in black, but black tea has its fair share if you prefer to drink that instead.
The Bottom Line
Many of these foods can work well for your lunch. It’s not always possible to clean your teeth if you are not at home, but these foods can certainly help to maintain mouth health by providing the right nutrients and getting rid of plaque.
The key to mouth health, as it is too general health, is to eat a balanced diet to ensure your body receives all the nutrients it needs. Plus, be conscious of the lingering effects some foods can have on your teeth and make some adjustments—such as switching to whole-grain carbohydrates instead of white.
Amanda Duffy has considerable knowledge in the field of dentistry and oral health, gained from a 20-year career in the healthcare sector – including a decade in the UK’s National Health Service, and years of experience writing high-quality dental content.