Most people are all too aware that eating sugary foods causes cavities, but did you realize the amount of sugar in your diet can influence your gum health? Eating a diet that contains too much of the sweet stuff can increase your risk of a serious health condition called periodontal disease.
How Can Sugary Foods cause Gum Disease?
Your mouth naturally contains hundreds of species of bacteria. Many of these strains of bacteria are harmless, but not all! Some bacteria are found in sticky dental plaque, and when you eat something sugary, use excess food particles for energy, allowing them to thrive and their numbers to grow. As a side-effect, they produce toxins that can infect your gums. Of course, your body’s immune system will try to fight the infection, but this response causes inflammation which gradually destroys the infected gum tissue. The problem can worsen if you choose sugary foods that tend to stick to teeth, allowing bacteria to feed off these leftovers for longer.
When you eat too much sugar, it can also induce systemic inflammation and increase insulin resistance, both of which are risk factors for gum disease. Gum disease can be more severe in people with diabetes, and gums take longer to heal because of its effect on the immune system.
Which Foods are Better for Healthy Gums?
Generally, it is preferable to choose low-sugar foods that are high in fibre, for example, fresh fruits and veggies. Although these foods contain natural sugars, they also tend to provide plenty of fibre, an indigestible part of the plant that slows the digestion of sugars so your body can metabolize them more efficiently. Also, the fibre in foods such as carrots, crunchy apples and celery can have a very slight scrubbing action on teeth, removing more plaque bacteria that could otherwise infect your gums. Of course, this isn’t a substitute for brushing your teeth regularly.
Another good thing about eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables is that they contain plenty of essential nutrients, including vitamin C. When your body receives adequate amounts of vitamin C, your immune system is more able to fight the bacteria infecting and inflaming your gums. Also, vitamin C is vital for producing collagen, a substance that helps your periodontal ligaments (ligaments that hold your teeth in their sockets) and ensures gums remain healthy.
Another good thing about eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables is that they contain plenty of essential nutrients, including vitamin C.
Broccoli and red and green peppers are both high in vitamin C, and peppers have more of this vitamin than oranges. Sweet potatoes and carrots also have high levels of vitamin C and other nutrients that are good for gums because of their high beta-carotene content. The body turns beta-carotene into vitamin A, in turn reducing inflammation.
Other good food choices include chicken because it contains collagen and Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10), an antioxidant needed for cell function. Salmon and other oily fish is an excellent source of omega-3 which has anti-inflammatory properties. You can also get omega-3 from nuts and seeds including sesame seeds, pistachios and macadamia nuts.
Catechins found in green tea and cacao are antioxidants and help to inhibit harmful bacteria, preventing gum inflammation. To enjoy cacao without consuming too much sugar, choose raw chocolate that is 70% or higher. When cacao hasn’t been exposed to high heat and is still raw, it contains more beneficial compounds.
Foods rich in calcium such as sugar-free yogurts and cheese are great for gums, and hard cheese helps to stimulate saliva production. Your saliva is a naturally protective fluid. Some dairy products like kefir contain probiotics that support the growth of good bacteria in your mouth, and other good sources include sauerkraut and kimchi.
A good low-sugar diet is an important factor in preventing gum disease, as are regular visits to Bel Canto! Is it time for a dental checkup to make sure your gums are healthy? Just use our convenient online form to request an appointment.