foods to avoid and foods to enjoy with receding gums

10 Foods To Enjoy and Foods To Avoid With Receding Gums

Having receding gums can be painful and uncomfortable which can impact more than just our mouths. Gum discomfort can reduce the joy of eating and impact happy experiences like dining out with friends, parties or meals with families. If you feel like receding gums inhibit how and what you eat, you are not alone. According to the National Institute of Health, approximately two in five adults are affected by some form of periodontal disease, indicating gum health issues are a fairly common occurrence.

10 foods to enjoy and 10 foods to avoid with receding gums

Many things could lead to gum disease such as diet, brushing too hard, oral hygiene, mouth trauma, misaligned teeth, smoking, mouth piercings, or tartar buildup. Some factors that could contribute to receding gums are in our control while others we may be less in control of. Since we eat regularly nutrition and diet are one aspect that we may have more control over when it comes to preventing and managing gum recession.

As a registered dietitian with a focus on all things dental nutrition, in this post, we will go over diet’s impact on gum health, nutrients that support healthy gums as well as 10 foods to enjoy and 10 foods to avoid with receding gums.

Plus, to help take some thinking out of what to eat with receding gums, feel free to subscribe here to receive a few gum-friendly recipe PDFs right in your inbox!

For many of us, ever since we were kids we were told time and time again that sugar rots our teeth and is bad for our mouths. While, at this point that may feel like an obvious, yet there are many other foods that can positively and negatively impact gum health.

healthy gums diet and unhealthy gums diet

Foods that cause a film to build up on teeth and gums can lead to bad bacteria adhering to the gum line and causing infection and/or inflammation. Inflamed gums don’t just cause receding gums and periodontal disease, inflamed gums have been associated with the development of cardiovascular disease and type two diabetes.

Foods often consumed in gum-disease promoting type of diet include highly acidic foods and drinks, foods and drinks high in added sugars, starchy processed foods, sticky or chewing foods and drinks that dry out your mouth.

Examples of these kinds of foods are shown in the 10 Foods to Avoid section, but for quick reference think of foods and drinks like soda, cupcakes, potato chips, caramel squares and cocktails. For a more in-depth breakdown of acidic food examples, refer to Dental Meal Plan’s blog post Alkaline Acid Food Chart.

Inflamed gums can also be caused by foods that are abrasive and could poke the gums. Think of foods like hard candy, popcorn, and hard crackers.

Of course, there are plenty of foods that help nourish your gums. A gum-healthy diet includes foods that are hydrating and help create saliva, wash away bad bacteria, and support tissue integrity of the gums.

Foods that help do this are things like water, high-fiber foods, foods high in calcium, protein, vitamin C and healthy fatty acids. Foods to enjoy for healthy gums are listed in the sections below but for quick reference think of foods like dark leafy greens, fatty fish, yogurt and brown rice.

By now you may have an idea of food groups that support and food groups that negatively impact gum health. To further break it down, there are specific nutrients within many gum-healthy foods that work in specific ways to help keep your gums in good condition. Read on to learn about each nutrient and how it helps the gums be happy, healthy and strong!

nutrients for happy gums

Omega-3 has been studied to show its impact on gum health. One study from the Journal of American Dietary Association found that having adequate intake of omega-3 reduced the development of periodontal disease by 20%.

Another study demonstrated omega-3 ability to help stop the growth of bad bacteria and work as an anti-inflammatory. Foods high in omega-3 can come from nuts like walnuts or fatty fish.

Vitamin C is a nutrient that the body cannot make, so the only way to get it is through consuming it. This vitamin helps make and synthesize collagen in your gums.

Essentially it plays a role in depositing calcium into the tissues of your gums, which helps the gums to be strong and sturdy. Strong gums help teeth stay put and prevent them from getting loose. On top of that, vitamin C helps reduce gum inflammation. Foods high in vitamin C are peppers, fruits and dark leafy greens.

Catechin is an antioxidant found in green tea. Antioxidants work in our bodies to help reduce inflammation. This specific antioxidant does that as well as helps fight off certain bacteria that could lead to the advancement of periodontal disease.

A study from the Journal of Family Medicine Primary Care demonstrated green tea’s antioxidant impact on oral health! To help receding gums, if you don’t already try incorporating green tea into the diet now and then.

ust as many of us were told to sugar rots our teeth as children, it seems as though many of us were also told that calcium helps build strong teeth and bones. It surely does help do just that, but what many people may not be aware of is calcium’s role in maintaining strong gums too! It helps maintain healthy gums and research is emerging that being deficient in calcium could contribute to the development of gum disease.

Foods packed with calcium include dairy foods, nuts and some vegetables. For a comprehensive list of calcium-rich foods, check out Dental Meal Plan’s post 6 Vitamins For Strong Teeth.

Probiotics have been studied to show that they may help restore the balance of bacteria in the mouth and help foster a better immune-mediated response to oral bacteria.

More research is needed to uncover how impactful probiotics are for oral health, but consuming probiotics through food is a preventative way to potentially help manage gum disease. When looking for probiotic-packed foods think yogurt or fermented foods.

Fibrous foods help increase saliva production. Saliva helps to wash away bad bacteria and maintain the balance of good bacteria, which can help reduce the development of tooth decay and gum inflammation. Foods packed with fiber are some fruits, bread and certain fiber-enhanced snacks!

10 foods to enjoy with receding gums

Here are 10 foods to enjoy with receding gums, plus a little background on how each one nourishes the gums!

Fatty fish are packed with omega-3, which as previously mentioned helps support gum health. You can enjoy fatty fish baked, grilled, broiled or depending on the fish right out of a can. For a quick omega-3 fatty fish meal or snack try having canned tuna, sardines or salmon. To include fatty fish as part of your meal try having a serving of fresh or frozen salmon, cod, herring, or tuna.

Dark leafy vegetables make for great sources of gum health nutrients fiber, calcium and vitamin C. These veggies include kale, spinach, swiss chard, romaine lettuce, bok choy and mustard greens.

As discussed green tea contains antioxidant catechin that helps with gum wellness. Green tea can be consumed iced or hot. Additionally, the powder form of green tea can be included in smoothies or energy balls.

Greek yogurt contains a bit more protein than the usual yogurt but on top of that it is also a great food source of bacteria-balancing, gum-happy probiotics. Flavored Greek yogurt can be high in added sugars so try using plain yogurt and mixing in berries along with some ground flaxseed. If eating Greek yogurt isn’t your thing it makes for a good substitute for sour cream or it can be added to smoothies.

Broccoli is not only a good vegetable source of saliva-producing fiber, it is filled with vitamin C too. This veggie can be steamed, baked or mixed into soups, casseroles or slow cooker meals.

Chicken has some calcium and is also a good source of protein. Although chicken isn’t packed with the previously mentioned gum health nutrients, it is a great source of protein, some of the gum health nutrients need protein to increase absorption of the other oral health-promoting vitamins and minerals. Chicken can be thrown into the slow cooker, casserole or soup as well as enjoyed baked, broiled, or grilled.

Fermented foods are a good source of probiotics and depending on the fermented food you consume it can be filled with other receding gum-friendly nutrition. Fermented foods such as kefir contain probiotics as well as calcium. Kefir can be had alone as a drink or added to smoothies. Fermented tempeh makes for a great probiotic option as well as protein and kimchi is a fermented cabbage that contains probiotics and depending on how it is flavored can be a good source of vitamin C as well.

Pineapple can be acidic, so it is recommended to consume it with a protein or fat to help lessen the acidity of teeth and gums. Pineapple is packed with vitamin C and fiber, yet along with that pineapple is also a naturally anti-inflammatory food that can help reduce swelling in the gums. Pineapples make for a great addition to smoothies as well as Greek yogurt.

Quinoa is a great source of plant-based protein as well as fiber. It makes for a tasty base for grain bowls or a side to lunch and dinner meals.

Certain nuts and seeds are good sources of plant-based omega-3 as well as protein and calcium. If consuming chia seeds or flaxseeds ensure the seeds are ground so they do not get stuck in pockets between the gums or teeth. Nut butters are another great way to reap the benefits of nuts while needing minimal chewing.

Here are 10 foods to avoid with receding gums, plus of course a little background on why these foods can hurt gum health.

Sports drinks can be packed with added sugar and often they tend to be an acidic beverage. As discussed added sugar and acidic foods and drinks can cause harmful bacteria to adhere to teeth and gums leading to tooth decay and the potential need for advanced dental treatments like dental implants or dental crowns.

Sodas can be bad for receding gums for the same reason sports drinks can be. Even if a diet, no or low added sugar soda is consumed they can still be acidic and cause further pain to already receding gums.

Cakes and cupcakes can be packed with added sugar and highly processed highly refined starches. These types of starches can quickly be digested into sugar-like properties in the mouth and have the same potentially negative impacts on teeth and gums as sugar can.

Citrus fruits are highly acidic, especially when consumed alone. Citrus fruits include fruits such as lemons, limes, grapefruit and pineapple. These fruits do contain vitamin C and fiber which are both good for gum health. So, if you do consume them try consuming them with other foods and try having water after to wash away any acidic debris

Potato chips are a starchy food, where the starch can turn into sugar in the mouth. Often potato chips are packed with sodium too that can dry out the mouth. Between the sugar and sodium found in potato chips, when chips are eaten they can create a great environment for bad bacteria to live in. If you just love chips, I feel you, try having some water in between bites to wash out the food debris.

Cocktails can be sugary beverages and are often made with alcohol. Alcohol can dry out the mouth and the added sugar in the drinks can contribute to the development of periodontal disease. Cocktails can also make a tasty, sometimes relaxing treat, so if you plan to enjoy a cocktail ensure you hydrate with water too.

Chewy candy can get stuck on teeth where the added sugar can stick to the gums and cause harm to receding gums. Try to steer clear of chewy, sticky candy while pursuing treatment for receding gums. Examples of chewy candy include caramel squares, jelly beans, gummy bears, and mallow bars. If you do enjoy the candy, try rinsing with water after and maintaining your usual daily oral hygiene.

Popcorn kernels can get lodged in between teeth or the sharp edges could poke at gums. This can cause inflammation and irritation to the gums and exacerbate any current gum issues.

Cookies just like cupcakes and cakes can be loaded with added sugar and refined starch. Some cookies can also be hard to chew which can cause further pain on receding, inflamed gums.

White bread just like cookies, cakes and cupcakes can be made with refined, processed starches that can turn to sugar in the mouth and create a harmful bacteria environment. Now, just like with some other foods, if you’d like to enjoy white bread, try having water before, during or after eating it.

Hopefully, now you have a pretty in-depth idea of what foods and nutrients help receding gums and which foods hurt receding gums. Yet, putting it all together can take additional thought, so here are some gum-nourishing meal and snack ideas:

gum healthy meal and snacks
  • Smoothie with Greek Yogurt, kefir, powdered green tea, spinach and fruit
  • Baked salmon with quinoa and steamed kale and broccoli
  • Greek yogurt with ground flaxseed and crushed pineapple
  • Grilled chicken mixed greens salad with iced green tea
  • Banana nice cream with nut butter, crushed pineapple and milk
  • Canned tuna with green tea
  • Small kefir spinach smoothie with fruit
  • Broccoli with spicy Greek yogurt dip
For some quick Gum-Healthy recipes, subscribe to Dental Meal Plans here and receive the recipes in PDF delivered right to your inbox!

Some things are out of your control when it comes to developing receding gums, yet what you eat is one way to help prevent or potentially lessen the severity of periodontal disease. Many nutrients and foods fuel healthy, happy gums and some foods hinder gum health.

I do believe most foods can fit into a mouth-healthy diet, so if you just love some of the foods on the avoid list, it’s all about balance. Try incorporating healthy gum foods while still including not-so-great gum foods just in moderation and with water and good dental health practices.

And of course, as always as a registered dietitian focused on dental health I am here to support your dental nutrition needs. If you’d like to save time planning meals, head on over to the shop to check out some pre-made meal plans. Any questions, for more information or to simply chat, please reach out via the contact page.

Cheers to Gum Happy Food

10 foods to enjoy and 10 foods to avoid with receding gums

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