Oral health is often a neglected aspect of health but it is vitally important!
Periodontal disease is an inflammatory condition that affects the gums but also the jaw bone and ligaments of the mouth. It is said to be initiated by bacterial infections, and is associated with an overgrowth of harmful bacteria and a lack of beneficial bacteria.
Poor oral hygiene, smoking, age, diabetes, high stress, female hormonal changes like pregnancy, and certain medications can all increase the risk of these inflammatory gum diseases and oral health complications.
Signs of gum disease may include red, swollen or tender gums, bleeding of the gums, receding gums, loose teeth, persistent bad breath, and changes in jaw alignment.
Of course, there are many practices we can regularly implement to preserve and maintain gum health as well as healthy teeth such as flossing, brushing, and rinsing.
But did you know our gums also depend on nutrients to stay healthy and avoid gum disease?
Today we share some of the vitamins and minerals that play an important role in dental health and keeping your gums healthy. If you are already eating a balanced diet, you are likely getting enough of many of these essential vitamins and minerals however supplementation is sometimes required to fill in the gaps or address deficiencies.
Calcium, as well as vitamin D, are essential nutrients for maintaining bone mineral density and help to keep your bones and your teeth strong and healthy.
Calcium can also fortify teeth to keep bad bacteria at bay while repairing damage made by oral bacteria, making your teeth more resilient.
Studies suggest that low dietary intake of calcium results in more severe periodontal disease (1).
Though low calcium isn't good, too much calcium is also a problem and why we recommend checking in with your health care provider before supplementing.
Calcium-rich foods may include leafy greens, dairy products, sardines, almonds, tahini and salmon.
Vitamin A is an important nutrient for the repair and healing of tissues, including oral mucosal tissues. It is also important to maintain immune defence. Vitamin A is a potent antioxidant vitamin that can help to lower oxidative damage and reduce the advancement of diseases such as gum disease.
A lower intake of vitamin A been associated with decreased oral health and periodontitis, also known as an inflammatory disease of the gums (2).
A concentrated source of vitamin A may include beef, liver, cod liver oil, tuna, dairy products, or egg yolks. Plant sources of vitamin A, also known as beta-carotene, may include sweet potatoes, yams, peppers, and kale.
The B vitamins possess a wide range of functions in the human body. These vitamins are needed for the maintenance of good oral health and the production of new gum tissue.
The status of B vitamins, and in particular vitamin B12 and folate may be important indicators of periodontal disease especially among older adults (5).
A B complex supplement can help to cover your B vitamin needs.
Vitamin C is well known for its role in assisting immune system function, but it also has research supporting its use for protecting gum health.
You most likely know by now if you have been an avid reader of our blog, that vitamin C is required to produce collagen. Collagen makes up our connective tissue, which includes the gums.
Vitamin C deficiency can result in adverse effects in the oral cavity such as inflamed and bleeding gums.
Lower dietary intake or low levels of vitamin C has also been associated with a greater progression and risk of developing periodontal disease (6)(7). Vitamin C exerts antioxidant defence mechanisms and plays a crucial role in preventing and slowing the progression of this condition (8).
You can boost your intake of vitamin C by consuming a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables such as mangoes, cherries, broccoli, bell peppers, kiwi, strawberries, and brussels sprouts or by taking a vitamin C supplement to promote optimal blood levels.
Vitamin D is an important vitamin for oral health as well as healthy gum tissue. Not only does it play an important role in immune function and supporting the body's defence mechanisms against pathogenic bacteria, but it also regulates bone and mineral metabolism and reduces inflammation in the gums (9).
Low levels of vitamin D have been observed among chronic periodontitis patients compared to those without the condition (10).
Vitamin D deficiency is very common among the general population and the majority of people in the Northern Hemisphere may not be getting enough vitamin D daily, especially during the winter months.
Another potent antioxidant vitamin, vitamin E can help to reduce the risk of gum disease mainly through its anti-inflammatory benefits. Inflammation plays a role in the development of gum diseases which is why many of the treatments are largely focused on controlling inflammation (11)(12).
Vitamin E can also cause problems in excess therefore it is advised to consult your health care provider before supplementing. There are many food sources of vitamin E which include sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, salmon, avocado, and brazil nuts.
Iron is an essential mineral for overall health but also in reducing the risk of gum damage and maintaining a full and healthy smile.
Low iron can lead to inflammation and oral health problems including periodontitis (13).
Research suggests that iron deficiency anemia may induce oxidative stress in the body causing an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants, as well as increase the risk of periodontal disease (14).
An excellent source of iron is shellfish, and other foods include clams, oysters, mussels, beef, spinach, and organ meats.
Low iron can be caused by gastrointestinal issues, poor dietary choices, infections such as parasites, and blood loss.
Supplementation is not always necessary or recommended, thus it is best to discuss this with your doctor.
Potassium is a mineral and electrolyte that exerts many essential body functions. Since it is not produced by the body, it's important to get enough from the diet.
Potassium is involved in maintaining bone mineral density which supports strong teeth and it also can help to prevent tooth decay. This mineral supports blood clotting and wound healing which can improve symptoms of bleeding gums. Low potassium intake from the diet can increase gum inflammation.
Foods rich in potassium may include dairy products, tomatoes, mushrooms, legumes, potatoes, bananas and avocados.
Phosphorous is a mineral that is found in our bones, and regulates how much calcium is stored in the body and how much is excreted. Without phosphorus the body cannot use calcium correctly.
Alongside calcium and vitamin D, phosphorous works at keeping our bones and teeth strong.
Though a deficiency in phosphorous is fairly rare, poor diets, alcoholism, diabetes, and eating disorders can increase the risk of phosphorous deficiency.
Low phosphorus status, among other nutrients, has been associated with increased severity of periodontal disease (15).
Foods that are high in phosphorous include chicken, turkey, pork, organ meats, sardines, salmon, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, whole grains, and dairy products.
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