Foods To Avoid For Optimal Gum Health

  • Dr.Febina Harif Bachelor of Dental Surgery – Kerala University of Health Sciences, India
  • Kiana Bamdad Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery - MBBS, Medicine, Cardiff University / Prifysgol Caerdydd

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Have you ever considered changing your diet for better health? Yes, our diet has so much to do with our overall health. For example, our oral health is dependent on the food we ingest.

Everyone loves having beautiful and healthy gums. Gum health is dependent on nutrition so a healthy diet is essential to keep gums healthy. Nowadays, gum disease is common. Gum disease can also affect the quality of life as it causes pain and functional limitations. With greater severity and extent, they cause increased impairment and also lead to physical disability, psychological disability, social disability, and physical and psychological discomfort.1

Foods to avoid for optimal gum health

Dietary interventions play an important role in optimal gum health. Sugar substances and hard and sticky food persist in the mouth for a longer time. They accumulate over the teeth, trap in between the spaces in teeth and can lead to dental plaque; this can lead to gum inflammation and related gum diseases.

Gum diseases can be prevented to an extent by modifying your diet plans. Aim to reduce the consumption of:

  • Fruit juice (especially citrus)
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Black Coffee
  • Tea (hot and cold)
  • Sports drinks
  • Alcohol (particularly wine)
  • Sour candies
  • Soda
  • Citrus fruits
  • Pickled vegetables
  • White bread
  • Pasta sauce
  • Peanut butter(some types)
  • Apple sauce
  • Tomatoes
  • Soft Candies, Toffees, Taffies, and Pastries
  • Cold food and drinks
  • Potato Chips
  • Popcorn
  • Fried fish

In a study conducted in an adult population with gum disease were reported to have a significantly higher percentage of their total energy contribution from beans, fried food and sweets, and to eat less fruit than people without gum disease

Sugary foods and beverages

Sugary substances are well-known culprits in gum disease. Sugary foods are not just chocolates. Sugar present in many food items so make sure to read food labels to inform yourself of the amount of sugar present. Understanding sugar information will benefit your gums in the long run and blocking any of the causative factors will decrease dental caries.

Try to limit consumption of:

  • Fermentable carbohydrates: Microorganisms in the mouth ferment sugars and fermentable dietary carbohydrates into acids.2 The acidity causes demineralisation of the tooth which is the initial step in tooth decay
  • Carbonated soft drinks: The sugar in soft drinks produces acids that attack and erode your enamel. Moreover, bacteria in your mouth feed on the sugar content of soft drinks, leading to health issues like plaque on your tooth surfaces and inflammation in your gums
  • Sweets: Stay away from sweet foods which can remain in the mouth for a longer time. For example, chocolates are preferred over lollipops and hard candies because chocolates clear faster from the mouth
  • Acidic foods and beverages: Carbonic acids, citric acids and phosphoric acids are common acids seen in our diet. These acids weaken enamel and can lead to dental erosion
  • Hard and sticky foods: Sticky foods are more harmful to teeth and gums than sweet foods. Sticky foods stick to teeth and can persist there for a longer time. Sticky foods can also get into spaces between teeth and can also lead to gum inflammation

Starchy foods: Starchy foods like bread, crackers, and pasta can become sticky while you chew them. This makes it easy for them to cover both tooth and gum surfaces.In addition, potato chips and snacks like popcorn can get trapped in your teeth. Bacteria in the mouth convert potato chips into sugar. They thus contribute to plaque build-up on the surface of your teeth.

  • Fried food: Deeply fried food contains a lot of oil and it can create a film on the tooth which can then lead to the accumulation of bacteria
  • Foods that dry your mouth: Always opt out of foods that dry your mouth. These include alcohol and many medicines. Dry mouth can lead to a decrease in salivation
  • Acid-containing sugar-free products: Sugar-free products help in the prevention of dental caries. However, products with acidic additives can cause demineralization of tooth enamel and then lead to dental erosion. Therefore it’s advised to avoid fruit-flavoured acid-containing sugar-free products2

Influence of alcohol and smoking on gums

Alcohol consumption increases the severity of gum disease. Smoking is a risk factor for the depletion of gum health. Smoking also changes the human microflora and immune response.

Lifestyle factors

Lifestyle is the way of living. It is the behaviour of an individual or a group. Individuals with healthy lifestyles, older adults, and people identifying as female tend to show positive dental behaviour.3 Poor lifestyle choices include consumption of fast food or processed foods, malnutrition, unhealthy diet, tobacco use, and harmful alcohol use.

Nutrient-rich foods beneficial for gums

Diet and nutrition are important for gum health. Your diet should comprise macronutrients and micronutrients essentials for your gum health.

Macronutrients consist of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.4

  • Polyols and fibres have a protective effect on the gums. Xylitol produced by the hydrogenation of xylose sugar has an antibacterial effect
  • omega-3 fatty acid (polyunsaturated fatty acids) has a positive impact on gum health. Salmon is high in both phosphorus and omega-3 fatty acids, which helps to strengthen gum

Micronutrients consist of vitamins, minerals and trace elements. vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K folic acid and calcium.4

Vitamins also have antioxidant actions.

  • Vitamin A: milk, cheese, liver and eggs are sources of preformed vitamin A.Carrots, green leaves, broccoli, ripe mangoes, sweet potato, orange-yellow vegetables, fruits and red palm oil are sources of provitamin A carotenoids
  • Vitamin D: present in fortified cereals, mushrooms and fish
  • Antioxidant micronutrients include vitamin A (carotenoids and β-carotene), vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin E (α-tocopherol), glutathione, and melatonin 

Examples of gum-friendly foods

  • Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables
  • Green and black teas
  • Sugarless chewing gum
  • Vitamin D, Antioxidants
  • Foods with fluoride
  • Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese
  • Orange Juice
  • Whole-grain breads and Cereals
  • Salmon

Foods loaded with fibre help in salivation. Saliva helps to reduce the effects of acids from starchy foods. 

Cheese is another saliva maker.5 Cheese has an increased rate of clearance, and also helps to maintain an alkaline pH inside the mouth. Cheese also reduces bacteria-causing caries.

Sugarless chewing gums also help in salivation. But sugar-free products may also contain acidic additives and are not completely safe.2

Calcium in milk contributes to gum health. Milk has a diluting effect inside the mouth and also helps in the reduction of bacteria causing decay.5

Vitamin C can prevent bleeding gums and gum disease. But they are also high in acids and can lead to dental erosion and cavities.

Green tea has a high amount of catechins. They are essential for gum health.

Protecting your gums and teeth

To protect your gums and teeth, eat sugary foods with meals. Your mouth makes more saliva during meals. This helps to reduce the effect of acid production and also helps to keep an alkaline pH in the mouth.

Role of oral hygiene in gum health

Good oral hygiene is an important factor for optimal gum health.

Improper oral hygiene measures can cause plaque to build up and harden around the teeth.

We have microorganisms in our mouths, and plaque is a sticky, odourless substance that can be removed by good oral hygiene practices. But when plaque remains and hardens on the teeth, they can only removed by a professional. The result is an infection of the gums, sometimes also called gum disease in extreme cases/recurrent gum inflammation.

Tips for maintaining good oral hygiene

  • Brush your teeth twice a day. A study concluded that toothpaste with vitamin C and magnesium salt can reduce inflammation of gums 
  • Floss once a day
  • Drink water. Drinking water will help to maintain alkaline pH in your mouth. Water will help to wash away acidic meals. Water also increases salivation 
  • Regular dental checkups should be done to prevent your teeth from hard and sticky foods causing cavities


Which foods are bad for gums?

Starchy foods, hard and sticky foods. They can stick to tooth surfaces or trap in spaces between teeth and can cause inflammation of gums. They also convert into sugars and form acids in the mouth by fermentation.

What foods help heal gums?

Milk, sardines, leafy greens, citrus fruits, berries, green tea, garlic, almonds, salmon, and water can help heal gums.

What heals gums the fastest?

Excellent brushing and flossing and routine dental checkups can help reduce and prevent bacteria build-up in the mouth, helping your gums to heal faster. Be sure to use soft-bristled toothbrushes. If possible, use fluoride toothpaste.


Sugary foods, acidic foods, sticky foods, hard foods and processed foods can harm gums. These foods should be abstained in diet for healthy gums as they can persist for a longer time in the mouth and can cause infections in gums, or gum inflammation. They can thus lead to severe gum problems. Gums can be ensured healthy by regular brushing, flossing, routine dental checkups and always following a healthy diet.


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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Dr.Febina Harif

Bachelor of Dental Surgery, Kerala University of Health Sciences, India

Dr.Febina Harif is a dental surgeon who also has pursued an Advanced PG Diploma in Pharmacovigilance and clinical research.

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