Nutrition plays a huge role, not just in our overall health, but in our dental health as well. Eating healthy foods gives your body nutrients that specifically benefit your oral health. Proper nutrition, along with healthy dental hygiene habits makes you less likely to develop bacteria and certain diseases of the mouth.
Periodontal disease is one of those dreaded diseases of the mouth which can lead to major tooth loss if not treated. According to the American Dental Association, ADA, unhealthy eating is not a cause of periodontal disease, but it can make existing periodontal disease more severe.
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is also known as gum disease. It occurs when normal bacteria in the mouth interacts with sugar to form plaque on the teeth. This plaque infects the gum tissue that supports your teeth.
Periodontal disease, in its mildest case is known as gingivitis. In this case, gums will be inflamed, sometimes bleed and often be very sore. If gingivitis is not treated, it can turn into full blown periodontal disease. When periodontal disease has developed, the gums will actually separate from the teeth, where bacteria can be introduced. This makes the perfect breeding ground for damaged teeth and even tooth loss.
What does nutrition have to do with periodontal disease?
The reason nutrients are so vital has to do with what they do for your body. “A diet low in important nutrients can make it harder for the body’s immune system to fight off infection,” said Dr. Michael P. Rethman, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, on the American Academy of Periodontology’s website.
Nutrients work with your body in keeping your teeth healthy. Healthy teeth don’t get gingivitis or periodontal disease.
- Calcium is a mineral that helps with bone density. It also helps with the bone density of your teeth which will keep them strong. Without enough calcium, teeth can become weak, which directly affects the gums as well. Getting less than 500mg of calcium per day puts you at great risk for periodontal disease. But if you’re wondering how you can possibly get that much calcium per day – meeting your daily requirement is actually quite easy when you eat foods like yogurt, milk, and cheese. Blackberries, oranges, bok choy and brussel sprouts are also good sources of calcium.
- Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps maintain cell health and keeps the connective tissue around your teeth healthy and in optimal shape. The antioxidant power of vitamin C fights inflammation in the body. Citrus fruits are a good source of vitamin C. Fruit juices also contain vitamin C, but they also contain sugar, which can be a bad thing in large amounts.
- Zinc, vitamin A, omega-3 fats and folic acid also work together to lower your risk for periodontal disease. Vitamin A works to allow calcium and phosphorus to be absorbed by the body. Dark orange and yellow fruits are rich in vitamin A. Fatty fish like mackerel, herring, salmon ad tuna are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Folic acid is found in spinach, other dark leafy greens, soybeans, wheat germ, orange juice and milk. Ultimately, your body needs these essential nutrients anyway, but they also play a big role in preventing gum disease as well.
- Additional healthy eating habits include consuming lots of vegetables and fruits and limiting high sugar foods. Chicken, salmon and turkey are excellent high protein choices. The best foods for your oral health are much the same as for your overall health. Natural foods, with as little processing as possible are always a great choice.
Dental hygiene is also important
While diet is a major consideration of disease prevention, no amount of healthy eating will help bad hygiene. Dental hygiene is what keeps your mouth clean and bacteria free in the first place. Proper dental care prevents dental decay and a host of other dental problems. The first step to take in your dental hygiene habit is to brush your teeth twice a day. Then, floss your teeth at least once per day. Regular dentist visits should become a habit from a very young age. The easiest way to ensure your family is getting regular check-ups is to schedule dental visits for your whole family every 6 months.
Although diet is a big part of keeping your whole mouth healthy, periodontal disease cannot be cured solely through diet. Regular dentist visits and practicing dental hygiene through proper brushing and flossing can help treat this painful and dreaded disease.
To prevent gum disease and periodontal disease in the first place, follow a healthy diet and practice good dental hygiene. The last thing you want to experience is the redness, sensitivity and pain that comes with bacteria and food debris being left in your mouth, which then breaks down into your gum tissues. So keep your teeth healthy by taking steps to prevent periodontal disease in the first place.