Many of us are familiar with the terms “gums” and “gum health”, but what do you actually need to know about them? Besides maintaining a proper oral healthcare routine, which should include brushing at least twice per day for two minutes each time and regular flossing, you can also incorporate gum-healthy foods into your grocery shopping list to help promote your gum health!
First, let’s take a look at what can cause gum disease. Simply put, when plaque builds up between teeth and gums, the bacteria found in it can cause our gum tissue to become inflamed, swollen and oftentimes painful. If left untreated, the gums start to pull away from the teeth, which leaves pockets where bacteria collect and can cause infection. Further, prolonged inflammation can lead to the destruction of gum tissue and the connective tissues that anchor our teeth to the alveolar bone in the jaw. Bone loss and even tooth loss can result from untreated gum disease.
Secondly, here’s a look at how your diet can help prevent gum disease. Fortunately for us, there are foods that help to fight inflammation, assist with healing, and strengthen and support gum tissue before problems develop. Vitamins and minerals have a major impact on our oral health. Here’s a closer look at some of the gum-healthy nutrients you can incorporate into your diet:
Vitamin A is essential for the health and healing of mucous membranes, including both our gums and the soft membranes located in our mouths. It’s found in products like dairy foods, meat, and liver, or formed in the body from beta-carotenes. You can also get your vitamin A intake from vegetables, including: carrots, peppers, pumpkin, squash, and sweet potatoes.
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that is necessary for our bodies to function properly. It helps our bodies produce collagen, the substance that provides support and structure to our tissues. Vitamin C also helps us repair tissue, and is a powerful antioxidant. If your gums are inflamed and bleeding, then your diet probably does not contain enough vitamin C. While citrus fruits like oranges and lemons may be the first items that come to mind when you hear vitamin C, you can also consume it through fruits like strawberries, kiwi, mangos, papayas as well as from vegetables like red peppers, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and kale.
Vitamin D helps us absorb the calcium that keeps teeth (and bones) strong, but that’s not all… It helps the body fight infection and reduce inflammation. A deficiency or insufficiency in vitamin D can affect both tooth enamel and gum health. In fact, low vitamin D levels in children can affect tooth development, causing teeth to be weaker in adulthood and more prone to cavities or chipping. In adults, low vitamin D status can lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease. Yes, sunlight exposure triggers our bodies to produce vitamin D naturally, but it’s also available through many food sources. Some of these sources include: fatty fish (salmon, tuna, herring) and egg yolks. It’s also available in foods fortified with vitamin D like cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, and even some cereals. Bonus? While you’re getting the benefit of vitamin D from dairy, you’re also enjoying the proteins they contain, one of which helps neutralize acids in the mouth that can irritate gums.
PSA: If you have pale gums, you may not be getting enough iron in your diet. An iron-rich diet can help to prevent anemia, which is a condition in which the blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells. This means that your tissues are not getting enough oxygen to perform as they should, which can weaken your immune system. When we have a weak immune system, our body can’t fight infection the way that it should, including gum disease and other oral health infections. We absorb the most iron from foods like meat, eggs, and fish, but it’s also found in beans, lentils, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, and prunes – plenty of ways to consume iron for the vegetarians & vegans out there!
When we think about a dental-healthy diet, it can come across as more of a “don’t eat” than a “do eat” list; i.e. don’t eat a lot of sugar, avoid acidic foods and beverages, cut down on refined carbs. While all of these suggestions are important when it comes to gingivitis and periodontal disease, we can’t forget about the foods and beverages we should consume to promote our gum health and remain gum-healthy. In conjunction with regular dental checkups and maintaining a solid oral hygiene routine, eating a well-balanced diet helps keep your gums at their healthiest!
If you have questions or concerns about your gum health, contact us – we’re here for you!