Several factors contribute to the state of our oral health. Behind brushing and flossing, our diet can have the greatest influence. But it's not always clear which foods are best for gums and teeth. Dive in and find out.
Importance of Healthy Gums
Gleaming white teeth is all that counts for a healthy mouth - the gums play an important role in protecting the teeth. When gums are inflamed or diseased, they recede from around the teeth. When the recession is excessive, teeth can become loose and at risk of drifting into irregular positions and in the worst case, fall out.
Healthy gums are firm to touch rather than soft and loose. They should be light pink in colour and not red and inflamed. The gum should sit snugly around each tooth rather than have any gaps. Healthy gums are less likely to bleed from brushing and flossing. It’s less likely that a person with healthy gums will experience sensitivity.
Gum health can influence overall health. Research has shown the link between gum disease and chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and possibly stroke. It is interesting that pregnant females with gum disease are more likely to have a pre-term birth.
Orthodontic Treatment and Gum Health
Having healthy gums is essential if you’re considering or under orthodontic treatment. If inflammation or infection is present, braces or Invisalign treatment may be disastrous.
Tooth movement in healthy tissues stretches the gums and dissolves the supporting bone which then reforms when tooth movement has stopped (when retainers are worn). However tooth movement in the presence of gum disease results in aggressive loss of bone and supporting gum that does not recover at a later date- In other words, moving teeth in people with infected gums could accelerate bone loss leading to tooth loss or the need for complex gum treatment.
If gum disease presents during treatment, often orthodontic treatment has to stop and the gum health issues dealt with before treatment can progress.
12 Foods for Healthy Gums and Teeth
Foods for healthy teeth and gums span the healthy food pyramid, so there is something for everyone to enjoy eating, knowing contributes to their oral health.
1. Chicken: Contains collagen and CoQ10, an antioxidant found in the body that helps with cell function and fights gum disease. Chicken skin, in particular, is high in collagen.
2. Beef: Grass-fed beef contains collagen and is high in omega-3s.
3. Salmon: Salmon and other oily fish, such as herring and mackerel, are good sources of nutrients and omega-3s. The fish oils have anti-inflammatory effects on the human body and are good for the immune system.
4. Bone Broth: The popularity of bone broth has soared in recent years. The broth contains several nutrients that aren’t available in whole foods. Collagen is just one of these nutrients that is essential for gum health.
5. Broccoli: Another superfood packed with vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C can improve gum strength, and vitamin A helps build strong enamel on teeth.
6. Capsicum: Red and green capsicum are high in vitamin C, which helps keep the connective tissue in gums healthy and strong.
7. Sweet potato: Contains vitamin A, which helps keep the mucous membranes and soft tissue of gums healthy. Vitamin A also helps build tooth enamel. This complex carbohydrate (exactly the type we want) also contains vitamins C and D, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, which help prevent gum disease.
8. Cacao: Chocolate lovers, cacao is on the list! However, you do need to be particular about the type of chocolate you choose. Raw chocolate with at least 70% cacao hasn't been exposed to high heat, so its beneficial compounds are still available. These are more effective at fighting tooth decay than even fluoride. Catechins in cacao can help stop gum disease.
9. Nuts and Seeds: Great sources of nutrients. The most beneficial to gum health are macadamia nuts, pistachios, and sesame seeds because of their high omega-3 content and anti-inflammatory qualities.
10. Yoghurt: While the calcium in dairy foods is good for healthy teeth and jaw bones, it's not the main benefit as leafy greens can be higher sources of calcium per serving. Yoghurt has the added benefit of encouraging healthy bacteria to fight gum disease and prevent cavities - but be careful with added sugars, as these will crush these benefits.
11. Fermented foods: Sauerkraut and Kimchi are good examples of these foods that support the good bacteria in the mouth and suppress the growth of oral pathogens. The probiotics reduce gingivitis and plaque buildup.
12. Tea: Rich in polyphenols, tea can prevent bacteria that encourage plaque to grow and reduce the risk of inflammation of soft mouth tissue. Green is the best variety of tea because it’s high in gum disease-fighting catechins.
Foods to Avoid If You Have Receding Gums or Gum Disease
Once gums have receded, extensive damage is done and can’t be fixed without complex and sometimes unpredictable gum surgery. Improving the gum’s health will stop the problem from advancing, but unlike other parts of the body, gums don’t heal and rejuvenate and return to their initial healthy state.
Limiting foods that worsen the problem of receding gums can help. A dentist may give a patient a list of foods to avoid so their diet doesn’t contribute to gum recession and gum disease. Any food with a high sugar content can make receding gums worse if the teeth are not cleaned thoroughly. Sugar promotes the overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the mouth, so it’s best to stay away from milk chocolate, cakes, slices, and doughnuts. Soft and energy drinks also coat the teeth and gums with harmful bacteria that thrive in sugar.
Foods with a high acid content are best to avoid because they also create an environment where harmful bacteria thrive. Citrus fruits, pickled vegetables, and black coffee can all increase inflammation and aggravate impacted gums.
Receding gums means the roots and nerves are exposed and likely to be more sensitive to extreme cold, so avoiding ice cubes and icy poles is recommended.
Healthy Gums Naturally
Don't underestimate diet for the impact it has on our oral health. If your dentist or orthodontist points out you have gingivitis or gum disease, reviewing your diet can be the first step to stop the disease from progressing. Cutting out sugar slowly and including the ideal foods will make a difference. Healthy gums are the bedrock of healthy teeth, so take good care of them.
If you have any concerns about your gums, call your nearest clinic to speak to one of our specialists, contact us online, or book an appointment.