Swollen Gums And Diet

This Is Normal?

This Is Normal?

If your fingers got red, painful, swollen and bloody I am sure you would be very alarmed and probably rush to the doctor’s office. Indeed, if this happens to any part of our body, we immediately understand that it is not normal, and there is a problem.  Somehow, we don’t react the same way when it is our gums. A large segment of my patient population believe that swollen gums happen normally about every six months due to plaque build-up. They come for their cleaning, the plaque is removed, and they are good to go for the next six months.

This Is Not Normal

This Is Not Normal

There is nothing normal about having swollen gums. Unfortunately, it is so common, most people just accept it as a normal occurrence. I am not going to get into the details of gingivitis and gum disease because I have done that in a previous post. The simple explanation for the presence of swollen gums is processed carbohydrates in the diet such as sugars and flours. The normally friendly plaque in our mouths turn bad and attack the teeth and gums. The other cause is not enough basic nutrients, especially vitamin C. Sailors were well known to get scurvy from lack of vitamin C and the first symptom is swelling of the gums. It is not always just about brushing and flossing correctly. You may be the perfect dental patient but still have problems if the diet is not adequate or you smoke.

Malnutrition Definition.jpg

Let me be blunt. If you have tooth decay or any inflammation of your gums, it is most likely a sign of malnutrition if you are a non-smoker. Yes, you heard that correctly. Call it what you want: nutrient deficient, under-nourished, vitamin deficient, avitaminosis or dietary deficiency. All these terms are synonyms for malnutrition. Dr. Weston A. Price wrote a book called “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” in the 1930’s that goes into detail about how modern foods lead to the breakdown of our bodies, starting with the mouth. I think a better name would have been “Malnutrition and Disease”, but that’s just my own two cents. He talks about the nutrients required for maintaining a healthy body and mouth. You can read it for free here.


After years of eating poorly, many things go wrong. Since I have been in practice for 30 years, I see the usual progression. It goes something like this: Chronic gingivitis→ gum disease→ flabby stomach→ high blood pressure→ blood sugar issues→ bad lipid profile→ heart disease. I am not suggesting that if you have gingivitis that you will get sick and have a heart attack. I am warning you that it is a sign that something is wrong (usually dietary) and should be corrected before it leads to other problems.

Here is what healthy gums look like

Healthy Gums.jpg

Here is what unhealthy gums look like


Notice how healthy gums appear light pink and unhealthy gums are dark pink or red and are swollen around the teeth. You can check for it yourself using a mirror in a well-lit room. If you suspect you may have any swelling and have not had a dental cleaning and check-up for over six months, you should schedule one and look at your dietary habits. An easy way to figure out if you are getting the proper nutrients is to use a free app like My Fitness Pal or Cronometer for a few days. It could make a significant difference in your health.