Michael is an author with a passion for health and the longevity of human lives.
Why Does Gum Health Matter?
Everyone knows that unhealthy gums can cause problems for your teeth, not to mention bad breath—but did you know it can also cause heart attacks? Gum disease affects nearly 60% of Americans, and recently, numerous studies revealed that there is a clear link between gum disease and heart disease. The health of your gums and your teeth go hand in hand. Many think that brushing twice a day is enough to stave off this silent and deadly oral disease.
Brushing and Flossing Alone Aren't Enough
But brushing and flossing only take care of roughly 25% of the harmful bacteria and plaque that can quickly accumulate in your mouth. Routine teeth brushing only handles the biofilm of bacteria on your teeth. The majority of the aforementioned bacteria are on the inside your cheeks, your tongue, and in the crevices underneath the gum-line and between teeth, where a brush simply can't reach.
An over-the-counter mouthwash with fluoride goes a long way toward healthy gums and teeth. These days, many types of mouthwash come without the burning sting of alcohol. Yet, even while brushing and flossing religiously, scraping the tongue, and utilizing a good mouthwash, gum disease and tooth decay are one of the most prevalent and overlooked ailments in the world.
One factor most fail to consider is the foods and drinks that have contact every day with our teeth and gums. Here are 10 foods that will improve or maintain gum health.
#1: Dairy for Strong Teeth and Gums
Milk, cheeses, yogurts, and the like are loaded with calcium. Eating foods rich in calcium helps fortify the enamel of your teeth and the bones under the gum-line, which are the foundation for your teeth. Introducing dairy into your diet is like killing two birds with one stone— except for better oral health.
For the lactose-intolerant crowd, there are calcium supplements and lactose-free dairy products. Keep in mind to pair your calcium supplement with vitamin D to boost absorption.
#2: Foods Loaded With Vitamin D
As mentioned before, vitamin D is integral to the human body's mineral absorption of calcium. Great sources of vitamin D are include but aren't limited to fish, the yolk in chicken eggs, the oil of cod liver, or the option of including a vitamin D supplement. Sunlight also provides our bodies with vitamin D, but don't overdo it; overexposure to solar radiation can be detrimental.
#3: Drink More Water for Gum Health
Although highly underrated, simply drinking more water—especially after meals and snacks—helps to wash away particles of food. It also has a secondary effect of supporting your saliva production. Saliva deserves its due credit; it is actually your first line of defense against tooth decay and upkeep of a more healthy environment for your mouth.
Keep a nice cool bottle or glass of water nearby. The American Dental Association urges people to drink more water for a cleaner, healthier mouth.
#4: Drink More Green and Black Teas
Tea is packed with catechins and polyphenols, and recent research has discovered that polyphenols help to eliminate bad bacteria that thrive in your mouth. Be cautious not to drink tea too hot or too cold, which can be bad for your teeth due to thermal cracking. For example, if you're eating hot soup, it's a safe idea to wait a bit until you sip on a cold drink. Exposing teeth to hot then cold can cause mini fractures.
#5: Eat a Variety of Nuts
Most nuts are loaded with important nutrients and minerals, specifically phosphorus and calcium. So, when the snacking starts, keep a bag of cashews, almonds, and other assortments of nuts handy. The great thing about eating more nuts is that it also boasts other health benefits, which is a bonus to better-looking teeth and gums. Be wary of very hard nuts if you have soft teeth, chew carefully and slowly.
#6: Add More Garlic to Your Diet
Yes, garlic fights gum disease in a very targeted way. You might know that garlic is recommended for people with heart problems, but the allicin compound in garlic also has the added benefit of mitigating bacterial properties. Considering the fact that gum problems are linked to heart problems, garlic is a must for anyone looking to improve oral health. Including more garlic in your dishes will go a long way toward avoiding periodontal disease.
#7: Fruits and Vegetables Improve Oral Health
Certain fruits and veggies have a great texture that naturally scrubs and cleans plaque off your teeth. Choices like apples, pears, carrots, and celery are all great. They're also filled with essential vitamins and nutrients that neutralize harmful acids and bacteria lurking in our mouths. Not only will you be keeping the doctor away, but you'll also be keeping dentists at bay. (That last line was for dramatic effect; please have regular dental checkups.)
#8: Onions Are Great for Teeth and Gums
Onions contain powerful antibacterial properties that assist in preventing gum disease and will lessen cavities. We all know that onions can often lead to undesirable breath—but in the long run, it is well worth the sacrifice. Start adding onions to your meals today; the rawer the onion, the better the positive effects.
#9: Eat Raisins To Prevent Cavities and Tooth Decay
Most are surprised to learn that raisins are actually good for our teeth and gums. They contain a phytochemical called oleanolic that seeks out dangerous mouth bacteria and kills them. Raisins also come with a great concentration of antioxidants and improve our overall health, and even keep us looking young. Keep a box of raisins around as a healthy alternative to other snacks.
#10: Shiitake Mushrooms Inhibit Plaque Formation
This Asian favorite helps control gum inflammation, better known as gingivitis. The inflammation of the gums is typically due to the build-up of plaque and biofilm. The amazing shiitake possess a natural sugar called lentinan that stops the formation and accumulation of microbes that produce plaque on teeth. They're the snipers on the battlefield of your mouth, leaving helpful bacteria alone and only targeting the enemy bacteria.
A Few Tips To Improve Gum Health
- If you're a smoker and you're starting to see early signs of gum disease, stop smoking immediately. Smoking tobacco is the fastest way to develop gum disease and tooth loss.
- Chew a gum that is designed to maintain clean teeth. Additionally, gum has the secondary effect of helping your mouth produce more saliva.
- Brush diligently twice a day. Be sure to brush every single surface of your teeth, the front, the back, and the chewing surfaces. Also, brush away from the gums.
- Be mindful of the order in which you carry out your oral care routine; floss first, next brush, then scrape your tongue and then finish with a mouthwash.
- Get regular dental check-ups. Most people wait too long to visit their dentist to find out what's going on in their mouths.
- Upgrade to an electric toothbrush; the oscillating brush is much more effective at cleaning and removing plaque from teeth.
- Dental Health Services Victoria, "The role of calcium, vitamin D and phosphorus in maintaining healthy teeth" [Consulted regarding Calcium and Vitamin D.]
- Mark Burhenne, DDS, "How Garlic Fights Tooth Decay. askthedentist.com
- ADA, "4 Reasons Water Is the Best Beverage for Your Teeth." www.mouthhealthy.org
- Dr. Axe, "Shiitake Mushrooms: 8 Scientifically Proven Benefits." https://draxe.com
- Jefferson Dental Care "Eat for your teeth: Top 6 superfoods for great oral health"
[Consulted regarding onions and tea.]
- Dept. of Dental Practice, University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, San Francisco, CA. "Raisins and oral health"
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2016 Michael Kismet
Ernest on May 27, 2019:
Thank you for your concern in sharing the information
simplehappylife on December 13, 2016:
Another great piece (◕‿◕✿) Thank You
Sanjay Sharma from Mandi (HP) India on December 08, 2016:
Thanks for sharing the wonderful information.