Eating some foods and avoiding others can help heal minor cavities. Significant tooth decay may require additional treatment.
Our bodies heal themselves if we care for our whole-body wellness. Your saliva helps rebuild (remineralize) lost tooth structure in the beginning stages of tooth decay (cavities) when supported with proper vitamins and minerals. This means your body can heal cavities naturally if provided with the right nutrients.
We mention nearly 100 foods below that help prevent and reverse cavities. In general, these foods all contain a specific nutrient or ingredient with dental health-promoting properties.
Foods that heal cavities are rich in one or more of these nutrients:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K2
If you’re interested in the connection between your dental and whole-body health, check out this amazing book by Rejuvenation Dentistry’s Dr. Gerry Curatola, DDS.
How Do Cavities Form?
Cavities form after a complex process that may happen over days, weeks, or months depending on the individual. Here’s the step-by-step process of how cavities form:
1. Plaque formation. When harmful bacteria and food particles coat your tooth surface and you don’t practice consistent oral care, the bacteria and food debris become dental plaque.
2. Feeding plaque. Dental plaque buildup feeds on carbohydrates like sugars or carbs from bread. Adjusting your diet may slow this process.
3. Acid secretion. When the plaque feeds on carbs, it excretes acids which slowly but surely wear away at your dental structure. (Yes, this means the bacteria in plaque “poops” acid.)
4. Cavity formation. If you allow the plaque to dwell on your teeth long enough and feed it enough sugars and carbs, the secreted acid will result in cavities (holes in your teeth).
5. Vicious cycle. Cavities may reduce the effectiveness of routine brushing and flossing, and increase the risk of infection. Cavities are a vicious cycle that makes maintaining good oral health difficult.
Nutrients That Fight Cavities Naturally
There are healthy foods and nutrients you can increase in your diet to help fight cavities naturally, especially if you also avoid sugars, carbs, and starches.
How it helps: Calcium is critical for dental health. It strengthens bones and teeth and transports it where it needs to go via your bloodstream or saliva. Dietary calcium is necessary for the natural remineralization of teeth.
Great sources of calcium in your diet include:
- Whey protein
- Canned sardines and salmon (with edible bones)
- Leafy greens
- Beans and lentils
- Calcium-fortified foods and drinks
How it helps: Vitamin D has many health benefits that include boosting your immune system. For dental health, this fat-soluble vitamin (D3, in particular) is necessary for transporting calcium from your blood to your teeth. Vitamin D deficiency leads to low calcium and low phosphate, both of which weaken teeth.
Foods high in vitamin D include:
- Cod liver oil
- Canned tuna
- Beef liver
- Egg yolks
- Vitamin D-fortified foods and drinks
How it helps: Unlike vitamin K1, which is common in leafy green vegetables, vitamin K2 is less common in Western diets. However, research shows that vitamin K2 (with vitamin D3) is necessary to move calcium from blood or tissues and into bones and teeth.
Foods high in vitamin K2 include:
- Certain cheeses, such as blue or gouda
- Ground beef
- Beef or chicken liver
- Chicken breast
- Egg yolks
How it helps: This essential mineral helps support healthy teeth. When saliva naturally remineralizes teeth, the saliva must contain calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus that you get from diet or supplements. Magnesium helps make calcium and vitamin D work.
Foods high in magnesium include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Leafy green vegetables
- Whole grains
- Blackstrap molasses
- Certain dairy products, like milk or yogurt
- Magnesium-fortified foods and drinks
How it helps: This is another mineral important in naturally remineralizing your teeth and reversing the effects of tooth decay. Getting enough phosphorus while avoiding the less helpful phytic acid is tough, but phosphorus-containing foods can help heal cavities.
Foods high in phosphorus include:
- Organ meats
- Nuts and seeds
- Phosphorus-fortified foods and drinks
How it helps: This natural sugar alcohol is sweet, but harmful bacteria in your mouth do not feed on xylitol. For reasons still unclear to researchers, substituting sugar with xylitol leads to better dental health outcomes than similar sugar alcohol substitutes.
Foods containing xylitol include:
- Sugar-free xylitol candy
Warning: Although safe and beneficial for humans, xylitol can be deadly to dogs. Dogs’ digestive systems do not know the difference between xylitol and sugar, so dogs produce insulin.
Because there’s no sugar to process, insulin lowers dogs’ blood sugar to fatal levels. Don’t store or spit out your xylitol gum in places where dogs can get to it.
Foods to Avoid
You want to avoid several foods to maintain a healthy set of teeth and support natural cavity healing. Stay away from carbohydrates and acidic foods.
Why to avoid it: Sugar is a carbohydrate. Carbohydrates feed the harmful bacteria on your teeth, resulting in acid secretion and, therefore, tooth decay.
Sugar is not the only carbohydrate that provides harmful bacteria, but it is very prevalent in Western diets, so sugar tends to cause cavities more than anything else. Avoid sugar, and you should be able to slow tooth decay significantly.
Sugary foods include:
- Fruit juices
- Salad dressings
- High fructose corn syrup-containing foods
Why avoid it: Simple starches have just as many carbohydrates as sugar does. Starches tend to stick to teeth.
The harmful bacteria on your teeth feed on simple starches, excrete acids, and cause tooth decay. Avoid simple starches to reduce your chance of cavities.
- Potato chips
- White bread
Why avoid it: Not only do dried fruits (like raisins, dried mango, or dried cranberry) contain lots of sugar, these snacks are very sticky. The fruity food debris sticks to your teeth like simple starches, trapping harmful sugars with harmful bacteria and accelerating tooth decay.
Dried fruit is harder to wash out of your mouth, more harmful to brush off your teeth, and more beneficial for the bad bacteria on your teeth. Avoid dried fruits, which may use misleading marketing — for example, “fruit is good for you!” — and you may decrease your risk of cavities.
Foods High in Phytic Acid
Why avoid it: Phytic acid may reduce your body’s absorption of minerals like calcium and magnesium, which are needed for dental strength. Phytic acid may prevent you from getting enough minerals necessary for tooth mineralization.
- Beans and lentils
- Nuts and seeds
Pro tip — If you enjoy bread but want healthier teeth, consider trying sprouted bread (which is lower in phytic acid). You can also greatly reduce the amount of phytic acid in beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds by soaking them in water for 24 hours before preparing.
Some of these foods are an overall plus to your diet, so it’s not necessary to stop eating them entirely.
Highly Acidic Food & Drinks
Why avoid it: Acidic food and drinks can accelerate the wearing away of your tooth enamel. The more acid you put in your mouth, the weaker your tooth structure.
Acidic foods include:
- Sports and energy drinks
- Fruit juices, especially citrus
- High-sodium products
Some dentists suggest avoiding dairy products because they are often low-pH. However, milk and other dairy support good dental health. Many dairy products contain high amounts of phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium that offset their acidic pH.
Best Practices to Remineralize Your Teeth
The best way to remineralize your teeth is to prevent tooth decay from disrupting your body’s natural remineralization process. Below are the best practices to support the remineralization of your teeth:
- Brush your teeth twice a daily with a soft-bristled sonic toothbrush, using gentle circles angled at your gums. This essential oral hygiene practice disrupts the harmful bacteria on your teeth, which would contribute to tooth decay. That way, your mouth can naturally remineralize teeth without the cycle of tooth decay to slow it down.
- Use high-quality toothpaste that promotes a healthy oral microbiome. The American Dental Association (ADA) supports the use of fluoride in dental care. Even though fluoride can help remineralize teeth, it has many potential side effects that you likely want to avoid altogether. Prebiotic toothpastes like Revitin are refreshing, healthy alternatives that help ensure your microbiome composition is ideal for remineralization. Hydroxyapatite is another alternative to fluoride that helps with remineralization.
- Get plenty of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus in your diet, all of which are necessary minerals to strengthen your teeth. Your saliva can naturally remineralize teeth using these nutrients.
- Avoid added sugar, simple starches, and acidic foods, all of which can significantly contribute to the wearing away of your dental enamel. Without these detriments, your body is better equipped to remineralize your teeth naturally.
- Drink water after eating, which rinses your mouth of food particles and acidic residue, likely contributing to tooth decay. Rinsing your mouth out improves the conditions in your oral cavity for natural remineralization.
- Schedule your dental checkup twice yearly for a deep cleaning that helps prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath. Plus, dental professionals can notice indicators of oral health conditions long before the average patient.
If you need an expert to guide you through the remineralization process, contact Rejuvenation Dentistry right away. We have two locations in New York City where we help patients like you achieve their oral health goals using safe, conservative treatment methods.