Nutrition is vital for your entire body, even when it comes to your gums. In honor of Good Nutrition Month, take a moment this November to learn which nutrients help prevent periodontal (gum) disease.
To get the full picture, it’s good to know why periodontal disease occurs. When plaque and tartar stay on teeth for an extended period, the bacteria can inflame gums, resulting in gingivitis. Symptoms of gingivitis include red, swollen, tender or bleeding gums. When gingivitis isn’t treated, it can advance to periodontitis (gum disease), meaning “inflammation around the tooth.” Pockets or spaces form as gums pull away from teeth and then become infected. This can cause damage to structures that support teeth and can eventually lead to tooth loss.
More immediate symptoms include persistent bad breath, tender or bleeding gums, pain while chewing, tooth sensitivity and even loose teeth. Depending on the severity, treatments range from deep cleanings that remove plaque and tartar to more involved dental surgeries.
In addition to good oral health habits and regular dental visits, nutrition is an important factor for preventing or recovering from periodontitis. Without proper nutrients fueling your body’s natural processes, you may not be able to fight off infections as easily. This can make you more vulnerable to quicker progression and harsher severity of periodontitis.
Some of the nutrients that encourage gum health include vitamin C, vitamin B12, folic acid and calcium. These key nutrients are easily accessible on a daily basis. Check out some of the richest sources of each.
- Vitamin C: bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes, snow peas and kale
- Vitamin B12: fish, beef, fortified cereals (watch out for the sugary kinds!), fortified tofu, low-fat milk, Swiss cheese and eggs
- Folic acid: edamame, lentils, asparagus, spinach, avocados, mangoes and lettuce
- Calcium: milk, yogurt, cheese, kale, broccoli and fortified cereals (we recommend whole-grain varieties)
Always make sure to brush for two minutes twice a day and floss once a day. It’s also best to avoid or quit smoking, which is one of the most significant causes of periodontitis and can decrease your chances for successful treatment.