To Celebrate Gum Disease Awareness Month, we thought we’d share some nutritional tips to help you maintain healthy gums. Considering seven out of 10 Canadians develop gum disease at some point in their lives, learning what to eat for healthy gums is key to your preventative care. Here are seven types of foods to eat and three types of foods to avoid to maintain healthy gums.
How To Eat For Healthy Gums – 7 Gum-Friendly Nutrients
There are many healthy food choices you can make to improve your overall health. However, there are some particularly gum-friendly nutrients we recommend, including:
- Omega-3 foods: Omega-3 foods contain anti-inflammatory properties perfect for inflamed gums. They also assist in healing gum tissue. Foods rich in Omega-3s include fatty fish, sesame seeds, macadamia nuts, and pistachios.
- Calcium: Foods rich in calcium, such as dairy, help keep teeth enamel healthy while also helping to promote gum health.
- Probiotics: Foods such as yogurt contain probiotics that help keep your oral microbiome balanced to reduce the risk of gum disease. Healthier bacteria outweigh harmful bacteria to help your body fight infections that set into the gums. You can also enjoy pickled and fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut. Avoid pickles with high sugar content, like bread & butter pickles or gherkins.
- Catechin: Green tea is rich in catechin and has antibacterial properties to help reduce bacteria that cause plaque and gum disease. Dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa also contains catechin and CBH, which strengthens tooth enamel.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C helps fight bacterial infections, reduces inflammation, strengthens gums, and encourages the production of collagen protein. Foods rich in vitamin C include peppers, strawberries, citrus fruits like oranges, potatoes, broccoli, blackcurrant, brussels sprouts, and leafy vegetables. Leafy veggies are also great because they stimulate saliva production and help remove bacteria.
- Co-Enzyme Q10: CoQ10 or “Ubiquinol” are fat-soluble vitamins and antioxidants that keep human cells healthy. Found in organ meats, fatty fish, and meats like pork, beef, and chicken, they suppress gum inflammation.
- Water: Along with green tea, drink more water. It is the best way to rinse away food bacteria, sugars, and food debris to reduce plaque and the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
3 Types Of Foods To Avoid For Healthy Gums
You’ll also have to avoid certain foods to enjoy a gum-healthy diet, including:
- Anything acidic: Acidic foods and drinks erode your tooth enamel and irritate your gums. This includes less healthy drinks like fizzy sugary drinks, but also includes consuming too many citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and grapefruits. To ensure you get your vitamin C, it’s best to stick oranges, as they have a higher pH level, so they are less damaging than other citrus fruits.
- Anything sweet: Sugar comes in many different forms, all of which cause gum irritation, increase bad bacteria, and contribute to plaque buildup. Avoid sugars of any kind, including maple syrup, molasses, agave, fructose, and glucose. Some healthier sweet foods to also avoid include dried fruits which are high in sugar and also stick to teeth like candy. Dates are less sticky, so make a better choice.
- Starches and carbs: Starchy, high-carb foods are culprits for increasing harmful oral bacteria. These foods include a lot of favourites from fried foods, to bread and baked goods, to pasta. A good rule of thumb is to choose baked over fried, and whole grain over anything containing highly processed white flour.
How Is Gum Disease Preventable?
Gum disease occurs when bacteria in the mouth infect gum tissue. The inflammation and irritation form when bacteria are not removed from the teeth through proper, regular brushing and flossing. The longer the bacteria stay on the teeth, the more time it has to create plaque. When plaque builds up, it becomes a harder substance called tartar or calculus. If this substance spreads below the gum line, you can no longer reach it when you brush and floss. As a result, you need to visit your dentist to have it removed and stop the progression of gum disease.
You can stop the periodontal disease process by controlling bacteria following a daily oral hygiene regime that includes:
- Brushing your teeth twice a day
- Flossing every day
- Seeing your dentist twice a year for your checkup and professional cleaning
- Eating a balanced diet with healthy choices that reduce sugar, acidic foods, and starches
These simple steps remove bacteria, reduce plaque, and prevent tartar. Any plaque not removed by brushing and flossing is removed by your hygienist at your biannual appointments.
What Are The Signs & Stages Of Gum Disease?
The early sign of gingivitis is red, tender, swollen gums. As soon as you notice gum tenderness, you should visit your dentist. They will examine your gums and then perform a thorough cleaning to remove plaque and tartar found below the gumline. They will then provide oral care instructions. However, if you don’t see your dentist, the tartar build-up will lead to gum disease.
Signs of gum disease include:
- Bleeding gums
- Gums that start to pull away from your teeth
- Loose teeth
- Uncomfortable bite
- Pain when chewing
- Pus between your teeth
- Painful gums when brushing or flossing
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Chronic bad breath
- An unpleasant taste in your mouth all the time
You can avoid the risk of tooth loss, as well as the ongoing discomfort of gum disease, by seeing your dentist at the first signs of gum disease. As mentioned, gingivitis is completely reversible in the early stages. Once you have full-blown gum disease, you increase your risk of the infection spreading to your blood system.
If you react quickly, your dentist can provide deeper cleaning with scaling and root planing to remove the infected tissue, tartar, plaque, and bacteria. If not, your gum disease will progress to the final stage, where surgery or laser treatments are required. You’ll also likely require medication to fight the infection, as it will impact your entire system. If you act fast, your dentist will get your oral health back on track.