Two trips a year to the dentist is what health care professionals have recommended for decades, the idea being to keep your teeth strong, healthy, clean, and secure in your mouth. But that's just the half of it. There's also the matter of taking care of your gums. If you don't have healthy gums, you risk health problems that can turn serious, starting with the loss of your teeth no longer properly anchored in your gums. Per 123dentist.com, gums are the hero of the mouth on several fronts – for those reasons mentioned above as well as for protecting your oral bones and taking the fight to unhealthy bacteria on a daily basis. That's why it's important to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily, the idea being also to remove food particles and plaque from between your teeth and keep them from getting beneath the surface of your gums.
Gum Disease Is Common . . . and SeriousMore than 50 percent of Americans, per askthedentist.com, have a form of gum disease – also referred to as periodontal disease. Per weightandwellness.com, that number might be closer to 75 percent of Americans 35 and older who have some type of gum disease – defined as a chronic inflammatory condition affecting the gum tissue. It's not only the health of your teeth and gums that are at stake here; left unchecked, gum disease could lead to heart problems or other chronic inflammatory issues such as diabetes and even rheumatoid arthritis, per weightandwellness.com.
Gingivitis and PeriodontitisThe precursor to actual gum disease is gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums caused by the buildup of bacteria-laden plaque in your mouth. Your gums become inflamed, and bleeding can result during tooth brushing, per webmd.com. At this point, even though your gums are irritated, your teeth remain firmly planted in their sockets, with no irreversible bone or tissue damage yet in place. If your gingivitis is left unchecked, however, your condition can advance to periodontitis. In such a case, the inner layer of the gum and bone pull away from the teeth, forming spaces between the teeth and gums where debris can gather and eventually become infected. Over time, the toxins manufactured by the plaque bacteria as well as your body's enzymes staving off infections can break down the bone and connective tissue securing your teeth, leading to tooth loss in adults. Other factors that can play into the development and advancement of gum disease can include bad habits such as smoking, the lack of good habits such as daily brushing and flossing, illnesses or diseases such as diabetes or HIV, hormonal changes, and family history of such problems.
Symptoms of Gum DiseaseThe development of gum disease usually isn't painful, and the signs can be subtle, but here are some things to watch for, per webmd.com:
- Gums bleeding while brushing
- Red, swollen, or tender gums
- Bad breath or bad taste in mouth
- Receding gums
- Deep pockets forming between teeth and gums
- Loose or shifting teeth
Good Nutrition Can Enhance Gum HealthWe get it; keeping track of which foods and nutrients can help with whatever aspect of your health is of most concern to you can be a daunting task. Still, though, it is an important consideration in terms of taking proper care of your gums and perhaps even reversing at least the early stages of gingivitis. Following are some foods and nutrients that can help you in this regard:
- Vitamin C. Contributes to the production of healthy connective tissue for keeping your teeth firmly in place, while also controlling mouth bacteria by boosting your immune system. Good food sources include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, oranges, kiwi, and grapefruit.
- Coenzyme Q10. Also known simply as CoQ10, this antioxidant-rich nutrient has been shown effective in healing gum tissue and decreasing gum disease signs such as bleeding, inflammation, and deepening of pockets, per weightandwellness.com. Food sources include beef, pork, chicken, and fatty fish such as sardines, salmon, and tuna.
- Onions. Short term, they won't do wonders for your breath, but onions possess microbial properties that can neutralize the kind of oral bacteria that cause gum disease and cavities, per 123dentist.com.
- Catechins. These are phenols and antioxidants shown to be effective in treating gum disease by thwarting harmful bacteria and guarding against inflammation of your gums, per askthedentist.com. Sources of catechin include green tea and cacao (seeds from which cocoa, cocoa butter, and chocolate are made). Catechins also can harden enamel (the material your teeth are made of).
- Vitamin A. Considered instrumental in helping to heal gum tissue and for bolstering your immune system, which comes in handy for fighting infections such as those targeting your gums. Good food sources of A are fish, sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, bananas, watermelon, and grapefruit, per weightandwellness.com.
- Folic acid. This B vitamin is key to maintaining oral health by inducing healthy cell growth of the gums and all of the mouth's surface tissue. You can find folic acid in leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, and legumes.
- Shiitake mushrooms. Not just any mushrooms, either. What sets shiitake mushrooms apart is their provision of lentinan, a polysaccharide that has a knack for attacking gum disease-causing bacteria while not touching other bacteria, per askthedentist.com.
- Collagen. Gum disease can result in the degradation of collagen in the gum tissue, making it necessary to replenish your collagen levels with collagen-containing foods such as bone broth and gelatin.