Food and Periodontal Disease – What to Eat and What to Avoid
Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is a pathological inflammatory condition of the gums and bone support surrounding the teeth. It is caused when the bacteria in plaque build up between the teeth and gums. As the bacteria begin to grow, the gums that surround the tooth becomes inflamed and painful.
If left untreated, the inflammation may cause the gums and the supporting bone structure to deteriorate and lead to tooth loss, bleeding gums and gum recession.
Causes of Gum Disease
The primary cause of gum disease is the plaque, however, other contributing factors include:
– Hormonal changes that occur during puberty, pregnancy or menopause make the gums more sensitive. It further makes gingivitis more easy to develop.
– Medications that inhibit saliva flow, which protects the teeth and gums. Some medications can even cause abnormal growth of gum tissue.
– Poor oral hygiene habits like not brushing or flossing regularly
– Habits like smoking as it makes it harder for gum tissue to repair itself
– Family history of dental disease
Major Food Culprits Causing Periodontal Disease
What you eat or don’t eat can greatly affect the health of your gums. Here are 6 types of food groups to avoid.
- Carbonated Drinks
They are high on acid and sugar. Acid breaks down the tooth enamel and allows the bacteria to grow, leading to tooth decay. On the other hand, sugar attracts the bacteria in plaque, which converts plaque into sugar causing further damage to gums and teeth.
Citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and tangerines are very high in acid. This erodes the enamel and makes the teeth and gums more susceptible to periodontal disease.
Alcohol isn’t healthy for the body but they do quite a bit of damage to the gums as well. Alcohol dries out the mouth and reduces the flow of saliva, which primarily contains enamel-protecting proteins and minerals. Saliva is the body’s natural tool that protects the teeth and gums. If you already suffer from dry mouth, your teeth and gums will be more vulnerable to plaque buildup, tooth decay, and gum disease.
- Dried Fruits
While dried fruits like raisins, prunes or figs are a great source for antioxidants and vitamins, they are also high in sugar content and sticky texture. They get stuck between the teeth and leave a lot of sugar behind.
- Coffee and Caffeinated Drinks
Just like alcohol, caffeine can also inhibit saliva flow and lead to dry mouth. This makes the gums and teeth more vulnerable to germs and damage.
- Starchy Carbs
Starchy foods like pasta, white bread, chips are damaging to your gums in two ways — a) simple carbs convert to sugar quickly which is harmful to gum health and b) these foods become really sticky as you chew them, hide in little nooks in the teeth and give a flourishing environment for the bacteria to thrive.
It definitely doesn’t mean that you have to completely give up these foods to protect your teeth. Rather, you must have them in moderation and rinse your mouth as soon as you consume them.
Foods Benefitting Teeth and Gums
Luckily, there are a number of foods that help in preventing periodontitis. Some include:
- Fiber-Rich Vegetables and Fruits: They clean the teeth even as you eat them as they remove the food particles stuck in teeth and they also get the saliva flowing. They act as a natural defense against gum disease and cavities.
- Dairy Products: Foods like milk, cheese and yogurt contain calcium which strengthens the teeth. Dairy products also help in putting back minerals that the teeth might have lost due to other foods.
- Sugarless Chewing Gum: This is also a great saliva maker which efficiently removes food particles from the mouth.
- Teas: Green and black teas contain polyphenols that interact with plaque bacteria. They kill or hold back bacteria, prevent them from growing and producing acid that is harmful to the teeth.
Proper Oral Hygiene
Adding the following habits to your oral hygiene routine will go a long way in preventing any kind of gum disease:
- Brushing After Meals: It is recommended that you brush after meals to remove the food debris and plaque that could be trapped between the gums and teeth. Clean your tongue as well as it is a favorite breeding ground for bacteria.
- Flossing: By flossing at least once a day, you can remove the food particles and plaque between teeth and along the gum line that your toothbrush can’t reach.
- Using Mouthwash: It reduces plaque and removes plaque and food particles that flossing missed.
- Regular Visits to Periodontist: You must visit a periodontist annually to get your teeth, gums, plaque level, and bone structure checked. The periodontists can identify symptoms of a gum disease at an early stage and prevent further damage.
You can successfully prevent periodontal disease by consuming a healthy diet, reducing systemic inflammation and following good oral hygiene practices.