Most of us know that excessive consumption of sugary food and drink can lead to tooth decay. And there are a number of foods that help keep teeth healthy. But what about the gums? Periodontal disease is very common in the United States and it is preventable. Good oral hygiene is always important, but there are a number of delicious foods that you can eat that will help keep your gums healthy and reduce your risk of periodontal disease.
- Salmon and Peanut Butter: You probably don’t want to eat the two together, but both salmon and peanut butter have polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can reduce the prevalence of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease causes the gums to become inflamed and separate from the teeth. The gap between the teeth and gums allows bacteria to build up, which can lead to tooth decay and bone loss. Foods rich in polyunsaturated fats, like peanut butter and salmon help reduce inflammation of the gums.
- Green Tea: Traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine have touted the health benefits of green tea for centuries, and the western world is starting to catch on to the idea. Recent scientific studies have begun to explore some of the specific health benefits of green tea. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Periodontology found that the people who consumed green tea on a regular basis had better oral health than those who didn’t drink green tea on a regular basis. Science Daily reports that “Green tea’s ability to help reduce symptoms of periodontal disease may be due to the presence of the antioxidant catechin. Previous research has demonstrated antioxidants’ ability to reduce inflammation in the body, and the indicators of periodontal disease measured in this study…suggest the existence of an inflammatory response to periodontal bacteria in the mouth. By interfering with the body’s inflammatory response to periodontal bacteria, green tea may actually help promote periodontal health and ward off further disease.”
- Raisins: If you have a sweet tooth and you want to maintain your healthy teeth and gums, raisins just might be the snack for you. Though we think of raisins as sweet and sticky (and therefore bad for teeth), research has shown that the antioxidants in raisins, called phytochemicals, prevent the growth of several different species of oral bacteria linked to caries and gum disease. Just make sure the raisins you eat don’t have added sugar. That will contribute to tooth decay and gum disease.
- Whole grains: The health benefits of whole grains have been touted the past few years, and whole grain foods are readily available everywhere now. Consuming four or more servings of whole grains each day reduces the risk of periodontal disease by 23%. Whole grains are digested more slowly than refined carbohydrates, which cause a steadier rise in blood glucose. Spikes in blood sugar can cause the body to produce inflammatory proteins, which lowers the risk of both gum disease and heart disease.
- Dairy Products: Break out the cheese! In moderation of course. Low-fat dairy products rich in nutrients like calcium and vitamin D reduce the amount of bacteria that causes gum disease. The nutrients in dairy products also help keep teeth strong and healthy. Healthy dairy products will include low fat cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt.
- Vitamin C: Foods containing vitamin C have a natural antioxidant that fights off compounds that can damage your gums and a lack of vitamin C is associated with an increased risk in gum inflammation. A 2003 study found that people with low levels of vitamin C in their systems had more disease causing bacteria in their mouths. However, be careful in consuming food and drink containing citrus. Though citrus fruits have vitamin C, they’re also very acidic and excessive consumption of citrus can eat away tooth enamel. There a number of non-acidic foods rich in vitamin C including broccoli, blackberries, kiwi, guava, red and green sweet peppers, strawberries, grapes and kidney beans.
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