Despite what mouth wash commercials may have you believe gingivitis can be treated and prevented with care at home. Gingivitis self-care is an option if your dentist has given you some bad news home remedies are an option. However, prevention is worth any amount of cure as gingivitis and gum disease is linked to far worse conditions.

In this excerpt from the book The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods by James A. Duke and Bill Gottlieb, CHC the authors explain how healing foods can fight the bacteria that cause gingivitis and help you prevent or undo the progression of gum disease.


Be fruitful and multiply—that sound advice takes on menacing overtones when you’re talking about bacteria in the mouth, bacteria that build up between the teeth and near the gums. Over time—and particularly in those who don’t floss, brush, or get regular dental care—that bacteria can cause swelling, redness, and even bleeding in your gums. If left untreated, gingivitis can develop into more serious gum diseases, such as periodontitis, or the loss of teeth.

Where do the bacteria come from? I hate to tell you this, but they’re already in your mouth. They’ve been there the whole time. Normally they’re kept in check with flossing and brushing, but when you avoid regular dental care, the sugars and starches in your food form a plaque—a sticky film—on your teeth. After a couple of days, the plaque hardens into tartar, the bacteria set up permanent residence, and your gingiva—the part of the gum closest to the teeth—starts getting irritated.

During pregnancy, women are at greater risk of developing gingivitis because of hormonal changes that make their gums more sensitive to the negative effects of plaque. Poor nutrition is another possible cause of gingivitis, which means that getting the wrong nutrients or not enough of the right ones is the second way that food can gum up your health, in addition to creating plaque. But while food can get you into this mess, food can also get you out.

Healing Foods for Gingivitis

Citrus fruits and more. In some cases, a deficiency in vitamin C can lead to inflamed or bleeding gums, but with a recommended Daily Value of only 90 milligrams, as determined by the FDA, that total isn’t too hard to reach if you add a few fruits to your diet. Nutritionists, working with as-purchased values, suggest oranges (84 milligrams), strawberries (84 milligrams in a cup), kiwi (70 milligrams), grapefruit (45 milligrams in one-half), and cantaloupe (25 milligrams in one-eighth). Black currants pack in even more vitamin C, with 180 milligrams in 100 grams, while a single guava boasts 125 milligrams.

For best results, don’t sprinkle sugar on the strawberries or otherwise adorn the fruit because then you’re defeating the purpose of eating the fruit in the first place. The goal is to keep your teeth clean of sugar and starches. Note that having lots of vitamin C in your diet doesn’t seem to affect your risk of developing gingivitis; just make sure that you’re at least getting the minimum amount recommended.

Cranberries. Cranberry juice is widely known to prevent urinary tract infections, but a study in the Journal of the American Dental Association found that cranberry juice can also reverse and inhibit the growth of dental plaque bacteria—and taking out the bacteria should lessen the risk of gingivitis. One catch, though, is that cranberry juice typically includes a lot of sugar, and dumping sugar in your mouth will undo the positive effects of the juice, so try to keep the cranberries plain.

Red and green peppers, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. If you prefer savory foods over sweet ones, no worries—plenty of vegetables have decent amounts of vitamin C. The best choices are sweet red and green peppers, as one medium red pepper contains 152 milligrams of vitamin C, while a green pepper of the same size has 95 milligrams. One cup of broccoli features 81 milligrams of vitamin C, while a cup of Brussels sprouts has nearly the same amount at 75 milligrams.

Sardines and salmon. When you think about building strong bones, you’ll probably think of calcium, and even though teeth aren’t bones—because they don’t contain marrow, among other reasons—calcium intake is a good indicator of dental health. A study in Journal of Periodontology, for example, showed that those with a lower calcium intake had a higher risk of periodontal disease: a 54 percent higher risk for women who took in only 2 to 499 milligrams of calcium and a 27 percent risk for women who had moderate calcium intake levels of 500 to 799 milligrams. You can turn to the coastlines for calcium in the form of sardines—325 milligrams in 3 ounces of Atlantic sardines in oil—and canned pink salmon—181 milligrams in a 3-ounce serving. Note that while canned salmon has some calcium clout, fresh salmon has much less, roughly 10 milligrams for that same 3-ounce serving. What’s the difference between canned and fresh? When salmon is canned, the calcium-rich bones are canned as well, and these bones soften during the canning process, which makes them digestible.

Soy and tofu. Not everyone can take dairy products, but thanks to the diversity of our food supply, you don’t have to. Many calcium-enhanced soy beverages are available, and they typically include about 300 milligrams of calcium per cup. Even more amazing, raw firm tofu prepared with calcium sulfate contains 861 milligrams of calcium in just a half cup. (Firm tofu prepared with nigari contains 345 milligrams of calcium in a 100-gram serving, just under half the amount of calcium in the same amount of tofu prepared with calcium sulfate.)

Yogurt, milk, and cheese. The FDA recommends that you take in 1.3 gram of calcium daily, and if you want more calcium in your diet, your first thought might be to turn to various dairy products. Good choice! An eight-ounce container of plain nonfat yogurt contains almost half the calcium you need, a total of 452 milligrams. A 1.5-ounce chunk of Romano cheese contains the same amount of calcium, and two ounces of pasteurized processed Swiss cheese has 438 milligrams. Many cheeses have more than 300 milligrams of calcium in one- to two-ounce servings, including ricotta, provolone, mozzarella, cheddar, muenster, and even individually wrapped slices of American cheese.

Milk fits into the calcium package as well, with a cup of milk—whether skim, one percent, or whole—providing between 276 and 300 milligrams of calcium.

For additional advice on proven natural remedies for common health conditions, purchase The Green Pharmacy from

Related Articles