Food For Thought Part 2: Nutrients for Healthy Gums
In our last blog we discussed the nutrients you can consume to ensure your teeth and bones are getting what they need to stay strong and healthy. But, total oral health is not just about your teeth. Your periodontal tissue, or gums, also benefit from eating a healthy diet. Aside from flossing and using a mouth rinse, feeding your gums the right nutrients is an excellent way to prevent inflammation and fight off infection from the inside.
Understanding Your Gums
Gums are made up of mucosal tissue and cover the jawbones. When this tissue is healthy, it helps secure teeth in place. This membrane is also very strong as it is able to withstand the harsh conditions you put it through when you eat. Hot, cold, spicy, and acidic foods all touch this tissue. While this tissue is very strong, it is also very susceptible to inflammation. Around of half of Americans suffer from periodontal disease, or inflammation and infection of the gum tissues. Thankfully, you can do more than floss to protect your gums.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Taking care of your gums is extremely important because neglecting them will almost always result in some stage of periodontal disease. We brush our teeth to remove plaque, and floss to remove it from in between our teeth and at the gum line. Plaque is hardened bacteria that has stayed on the teeth too long. If plaque is not removed, it will turn into tartar. These bacterial deposits are commonly found at the gum line and in between teeth. Eventually they can irritate inflame the gums, causing gingivitis. Untreated gingivitis leads to periodontal disease. Advanced stages of periodontal disease can lead to tooth and bone loss, and a slew of other complications. Periodontal disease is characterized by puffy, swollen gums that bleed, also bad breath, and loose teeth.
You can prevent periodontal disease by brushing and flossing your teeth daily. This removes the bacteria that will eventually cause inflammation. But you can also double up your efforts by eating foods that will help keep your gums healthy, strong, and able to resist bacterial infection.
Feeding Your Gums
Your gums are mucosal tissue just like the tissues that line your digestive tract and respiratory system . By eating the right foods you can help your body repair these tissues from the inside out. Certain foods have properties that help your body fight inflammation and resist bacterial infection, these are exactly the types of foods you want to eat if you would like to promote gum health and prevent periodontal disease.
Vitamin C– Vitamin C is an extremely important vitamin that helps your cells fight off bacterial infections by boosting immunity. Vitamin C does this by strengthening blood vessels and acting as an antioxidant. When blood vessels are strong more antibodies can be sent to help fight any infections that may pop up. Similarly, vitamin C is essential in the production of collagen which is a tissue that is needed for the gums to prevent periodontal disease. You can find vitamin C in citrus fruits, strawberries, kale, broccoli, and bell peppers along with other fruits and vegetables.
Antioxidants – Antioxidants are substances that prevent oxidation of cells, and therefore prevent cell damage. They are found in fruits and vegetables and are widely known for their health benefits. Your body actually makes its own antioxidants to help fight off infection, inflammation, and other viruses. It is important to supplement your body with foods rich in antioxidants to help it along. Flavanols – found in cacao, resveratrol – found in wine, lycopene – common in tomatoes as well as vitamin A, C, E, and catechins – found in teas are all antioxidants that can help you boost your periodontal tissues’ ability to protect themselves. Eating whole foods ensures you will be able to ingest as many antioxidants as possible without changing too much of your diet.
Taking care of your periodontal tissues is one of the most important aspects of oral health. Creating a routine of brushing and flossing twice every day is the first step in maintaining healthy habits. This will help you remove the inflammation and infection-causing bacteria right away. However, by eating foods rich in antioxidants and dense in nutrients you can give your gums an even stronger chance of fighting periodontal disease. If you have any questions about periodontal disease and how to prevent it, ask Dr. Brazdo at your next appointment!