When you have all of your teeth, messages like "eat more calcium; it's good for your teeth" are relevant to you. Once you lose your teeth and get dentures, however, you may lose your focus on nutrition and its impact on your oral health. This is unfortunate, since denture wearers still need to focus on gum health - and gum health is highly dependent on good nutrition.
So what nutrients do you need to focus on in order to keep your gums healthy? Start with these three.
1. Vitamin C
If you have ever heard of scurvy, the gum condition that affected sailors who were at sea without fresh fruit for months, then it should come as no surprise that vitamin C is important for gum health. Not only does it play a role in the synthesis of collagen - a component of gum tissue - it's also valuable for your immune system.
Eating enough vitamin C to support a healthy immune system helps your body fight against the bacteria that cause gum disease. And while you don't have to worry about gum diseases causing your teeth to fall out, you do need to be concerned about the bad breath it can cause. Gum disease can also make wearing dentures painful, as the dentures may rub on your inflamed and irritated gums.
Many experts recommend that adults consume between 1,200 and 1,500 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C per day. While citrus fruits are a classic source, red peppers, sweet potatoes, and carrots are also excellent sources of vitamin C.
Zinc is a mineral that is also helpful in preventing gum disease. It is a factor in many of the body's enzymatic processes related to healing and your immune system. Without enough zinc in your diet, any minor abrasions and irritation caused by your dentures might take longer to heal.
Your body does not store zinc; you need to eat enough to meet your needs daily. And many people are deficient in zinc, since it's only found in certain foods. According to Healthline, men should eat 11 mg per day, and women should eat at least 8 mg.
Good sources of zinc include red meat, shellfish, dairy products, and eggs. If you follow a vegetarian diet, make sure you're eating plenty of beans and other legumes, vegetables like potatoes and green beans, and whole grains - these options are good plant-based sources of the nutrient.
3. Folic Acid
Folic acid, or folate, is known for its important role in fetal development and cell division. But many older adults past childbearing age don't realize they still have to worry about their folate intake. This nutrient has other roles in the body; it's especially helpful for reducing inflammation, such as the inflammation found in your gums due to gingivitis or denture irritation.
Adults need 400 micrograms of folate per day for good overall health. Luckily, there are a lot of food sources to choose from:
- Beans, peas, and lentils
- Leafy greens
- Brussels sprouts
If you focus on including more fruits and veggies in your diet, you should have no trouble meeting your folate needs. Many of these foods are also high in vitamin C and zinc, making fresh produce an all-around smart choice for your gum health.
Don't let go of your focus on good nutrition just because you've lost your natural teeth. Getting enough vitamin C, zinc, and folate in your diet will help keep your gums healthy so you can continue wearing dentures comfortably. If you're having trouble with your dentures or with your gum health, contact Dr. Gregory B. Halls Denture Center to make an appointment.