Many people have heard that milk is good for their bones, and carrots are good for their eyes. These nutrition recommendations are well known, but you may not know which foods, if any, are good for your gums. Here's what current nutrition research says about the best foods for gum health.
Why It's Critical to Keep Gums Healthy
In the U.S., 47.2% of people aged 30 or older have some form of gum disease, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with early-stage gum problems may notice that their gums are swollen and red. Their gums may also feel tender and sensitive. Left untreated, gum problems can advance to a more serious condition called periodontitis. People with this more severe condition may experience their gums pulling away from their teeth, their teeth loosening, or even their teeth falling out.
Gum problems are caused by the germs in plaque. The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) explains that these germs can affect the gum tissue, leading to sensitivity and other gum issues. To remove the germs that cause gum problems, remember to brush your teeth twice per day and floss once per day. In addition, you should see your dentist for a comprehensive periodontal evaluation at least once a year. A well-balanced diet may also help to keep your gums healthy.
Nutrients That May Benefit Gum Health
At this time, the research linking specific foods to better gum health is limited. However, scientists have drawn a number of conclusions from the research that is available regarding some nutrients that may benefit gum health.
- Vitamin C
Foods that contain vitamin C may reduce gum sensitivity, according to an article published in Nutrients, a peer-reviewed, open access journal. People who are deficient in this important vitamin may get scurvy — a condition that causes sensitive gums. The National Institutes of Health notes that all fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, but some of the best sources include citrus fruits, berries, and leafy greens.
- Vitamin B12
The Nutrients article also suggests that vitamin B12 may support gum health. People who are deficient in this vitamin may have sensitive gums, and some studies have found a link between low B12 levels and severe gum problems. The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics explains that animal products, such as milk, eggs, and meat, are good sources of B12. In addition, some breads, pastas, and cereals are fortified with B12.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids may play a role in keeping your gums healthy, too. As a study published in BMC Oral Health (an open access, peer-reviewed journal) reports, there is evidence that omega-3 fatty acids help to regulate sensitivity in the gum tissues. Flaxseed oil and fish are two good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Foods Associated With Poor Gum Health
While some foods have been linked to good gum health, others have the opposite effect. The American Dental Association explains that poor nutrition can worsen the condition of your gums. In particular, a diet high in refined carbohydrates may be connected to gum sensitivity, concludes the BMC Oral Health study. Refined carbohydrates include foods such as white bread, white rice, and potato chips, explains the United States-based Cleveland Clinic. In general, as outlined by the Nutrients article, a high-sugar diet encourages plaque formation and puts you at higher risk of various dental problems.
Next time you take a trip to the grocery store, try adding some foods rich in vitamin C, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids to your cart. By maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet, you'll be doing your gums and your overall health a favour. To learn more about the best foods for gum health, talk to your medical or dental professional.