fresh produceGood nutrition is essential for fighting gum disease. But which nutrients matter most?

The nutrients in your food can be classified as macronutrients or micronutrients. Macronutrients are the ones needed in relatively large amounts: fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. They fuel the body and provide many of the vital structural components from which it’s made.

Micronutrients are compounds we need in smaller amounts and generally have more specific roles in bodily functions. They include vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.

And they’re the focus of a study recently published in the Australian Dental Journal.

Its purpose? To see if specific micronutrients are associated with periodontal health. So researchers analyzed data from NHANES participants over age 30 who had also received complete perio exams. (NHANES is an ongoing survey research program for assessing the health and nutritional status of US residents.)

Among other things, they found that lower intake of iron, phosphorous, and vitamins A, B1, C, E, and folate was associated with more severe gum disease. Thus, the authors suggested getting more of these nutrients into the diet or supplementing as a protective measure.

They also noticed something interesting about vitamin D’s role. Gum disease was less severe in those who had the second highest dose compared with those at the highest dose. You’d think it would be the other way around, but earlier research has indeed suggested that small doses of D and calcium can have a positive impact.

Other researchers have identified additional micronutrients that may help support periodontal health. For instance, one study published last spring found that zinc, selenium, and copper – in addition to iron – may help keep gum disease in check.

A 2016 study found dietary antioxidants to be “indispensable” for gum health. These vitamins, phytochemicals, and other compounds help protect the gums from the free radicals, reactive oxygen species, and other harmful compounds produced during infection. They include vitamins C and A, beta carotene, melatonin, taurine, polyphenols, flavonoids, glutathione, and many more.

For a good overview of nutrition’s role in keeping your gums healthy, do check out this excellent review in the journal Nutrients.

That role is, in fact, so important, nutrition is central to the periodontal therapy we provide. It’s one of the main ways we have to alter the host response, balancing body chemistry and making the oral environment less hospitable for harmful microbes, more hospitable for those that support health.

And if you don’t have gum disease now? Following the same basic nutritional steps may give you a leg up in keeping your mouth disease-free over the long haul.

Image by Skycladd

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