Your smile is critical to your self-esteem. Missing teeth, bleeding gums, bad breath and other symptoms of gum disease can seriously diminish your desire to smile. Also, what you eat can make the difference in the strength of your oral health.

In this column, we will discuss the relationship of your diet in preventing and managing gum disease.

Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammation resulting from build-up of bacteria in the gums. Numerous studies demonstrate that certain foods promote an anti-inflammatory and healing environment thereby preventing harmful bacteria, reduce inflammation and strengthen the gums. This means, if you desire to prevent or reverse gum disease you should eat the right foods.

Gum disease affects more than just your teeth and gums. It can also lead to serious medical conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Gum disease is associated with low levels of vitamin C. It is important to eat foods that contain vitamin C in abundance. The high concentration of vitamin C in guavas, strawberries, oranges, kiwis and other citrus fruits help support the gum lining and protect against periodontal disease.

Some of the other super foods that protect and support gum health are as follows:

Blueberries- A natural compound found in blueberries helps block pathways involved in inflammation. That same compound also reduces the formation of bacteria. Just one cup of blueberries can contain thousands of antioxidants – vitamins A & C, plus flavonoids.

Green Tea- Green tea interferes with the body’s inflammatory response to periodontal bacteria. Antioxidants such as polyphenols in green tea can neutralize the free radicals and reduce or even help prevent some of the damages they cause. The healthy properties of green tea are largely attributed to polyphenols.

Salmon- The long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids in salmon and other fatty fish have anti-inflammatory effects on the body and have been proven to reduce periodontitis.

Cauliflower and Broccoli– Many persons who suffer from gum disease have a deficiency of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Studies show that increased levels of CoQ10 suppresses inflammation and reduces gum infection. Cauliflower, broccoli; as well as spinach, peanuts, soybeans, lentils, mackerel and herring are loaded with CoQ10.

Raw onions- The juices in raw onions can kill several different strains of bacteria; including those that lead to gum disease.

Shiitake Mushrooms– Shiitake mushrooms contain a polysaccharide called lentinan, which attacks harmful bacteria while leaving good bacteria alone. Shiitake mushrooms also help to reduce inflammation.  Mushrooms are a rich, low calorie source of fiber, protein and antioxidants.

Guavas and Strawberries – Since gum disease is associated with low levels of vitamin C, it is important to eat foods containing vitamin C in abundance. Eating guavas, strawberries, oranges, kiwis and other citrus fruits help support the gum lining and protect against periodontal disease. Vitamin C also plays a vital role in collagen production and can help repair damaged gums.

The foods you eat can make a significant difference in your oral health; however, they are not a substitute for consistent brushing, flossing and regular visits to your dentist.  If you’re experiencing symptoms of gum disease; such as bleeding gums, painful or swollen gums, bad breath or loose teeth it’s important that you consult a dentist or periodontist. Healthy gums are the foundation to a beautiful smile.

Dr. Kendal V. O. Major is Founder and CEO of Center for Specialized Dentistry which is a comprehensive family dental practice operating in Nassau and Freeport. He is the first Bahamian Specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He also is a certified Fastbraces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue, Nassau at (242)325-5165 or [email protected].

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