Health Advice



Nutrition News: Nutrition for Healthy Gums

Charlyn Fargo on

If you have healthy gums, chances are you're eating a healthy diet. The same goes for our children. It's not only important we all brush and floss our teeth, but also that we have a healthy diet.

Periodontal disease affects 90% of the world's population, and it's associated with many chronic conditions, such as diabetes, Alzheimer's, hypertension, malnutrition, cardiovascular disease and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Dental health and healthy eating patterns are inextricably linked, according to Ellen Karlin, registered dietitian from Owings Mills, Maryland, who recently spoke at the Spring Assembly of the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Nutrient-dense eating styles play an integral role in overall health of the hard and soft tissues in the oral cavity.

"A healthier diet means fewer cavities," says Karlin.

Cavities in early childhood can lead to malnutrition, she adds. Cavities are a common disease of the teeth that affect children younger than 6 years of age. The primary teeth begin to erupt at 4-6 months of age and are susceptible to cavities. Cavities can result in difficulty in chewing, which impacts nutrient intake, chronic dental pain and can lead to premature tooth loss and inflammation for both adults and children.

A study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health of 273 Nepali children ages 6 months to 12 years found that diet made a big difference in the health of children's teeth. The traditional Nepali diet is very healthy -- rice, lentils, vegetables, grains and other whole foods. But as sugar-sweetened beverages have become more popular and consumed on a daily basis, the study found stunted growth from nutritional deficiencies.


For all of us, too many cookies, cake and added sweets means we're at increased risk for malnutrition and losing our teeth.

Karlin, co-author of the study "Dental and Oral Considerations in Pediatric Celiac Disease," says children need plenty of hydration to increase salivary flow with foods that require chewing. Rather than juice in a sippy cup throughout the day for children, she recommends feeding children whole fruit and offering only water and plain milk to drink.

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines recommend making every bite count by limiting intake of ultraprocessed foods, added sugars and sugar-sweetened beverages.

Parents can help limit foods with added sugars by reading labels and knowing sugars come in many different names: brown sugar, table sugar, corn syrup, beet sugar, maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar, molasses and date sugar.


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