Can your diet affect your gum health? Most people already know that calcium can help to build strong teeth and bones — but what about gums? Take a look at what you need to know about your mouth's overall health, periodontal disease, and nutrition.
Your mouth is more than just your teeth. Gum disease can lead to tooth loss, oral infections, and systemic (whole-body) diseases. Not only can gum inflammation cause pain or discomfort, but it can also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, dementia, and diabetes, according to Harvard Medical School.
One factor won’t increase or decrease the risk of periodontal (gum) disease. Instead, the likelihood that you'll develop this type of oral issue depends on your overall health, how well you care for your teeth and gums (brushing, flossing, and visits to the dental office for checkups and cleanings), lifestyle factors (such as smoking or chewing tobacco use), genetics, and nutrition.
How Can What You Eat Impact Your Gums?
Even though nutrition isn't the only factor that can impact your periodontal health, what you eat (or sometimes, don't eat) can help you to maintain healthy gums — especially in combination with brushing, flossing, and routine professional dental care.
According to research published in the journal BMC Oral Health, a low-carbohydrate, high fiber diet that is rich in vitamins C and D, as well as Omega-3 fatty acids, reduces gum inflammation.
Along with decreasing the gum risks of inflammation, some foods can remove oral debris. Leftover or stuck food and other debris can feed the bacteria in your mouth. This can result in a bacterial imbalance or an excessively acidic environment. Not only can this type of oral environment affect your teeth and cause cavities, but it may also impact your gum health.
While some foods can remain on your teeth and gums long after you're done eating, other options may actually wipe away the debris. Carrots, celery sticks, and other similarly crunchy vegetables stimulate saliva production. Saliva is the body's natural mouthwash. The right amount of saliva can rinse some of the potentially harmful debris and bacteria away.
Some crunchy veggies can also physically clean your teeth. Fibrous or highly textured picks, such as celery, can remove food and beverage debris from your mouth.
Fibrous vegetables are not the only menu or snack selections that can help you to maintain periodontal health. Think about the nutritional content in each food and look for items that are rich in inflammation-reducing vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acids. These foods include strawberries, kiwi, and carrots, which are rich in Vitamin C. Vitamin D is present in some types of fish (such as tuna and salmon), egg yolks, and fortified cereals, juices, and milk products.
If you're looking for a way to add Omega-3 fatty acids into your healthy gum diet, fish and seafood options such as mackerel, sardines, herring, and tuna can provide you with added nutrients. Other Omega-3-rich foods include nuts and seeds, soybean oil, flaxseed oil, and some fortified juices, dairy products, and eggs.
There are foods you should choose to increase gum health — and foods to avoid. Even though you may eat a diet that's rich in Omega-3s and vitamin C, you could reverse (or at the very least, minimize) the effects of these foods with the addition of unhealthy options.
The low-carb diet that some research shows can benefit gum health doesn't include refined bread or cereal products, baked goods, candy, or soda. These high-carbohydrate foods and beverages add sugar to the oral environment and can promote bacterial growth.