Our gums, the tissue that surrounds the necks of the teeth, play a critical role in the health of the entire body. While they are often overlooked in regard to optimal wellness, many struggle with gum disease and related oral conditions.
Once the gums' health and that of the supporting structures to the teeth have deteriorated, referred to as gingivitis or periodontal disease, it can be extremely difficult to reverse the damage. Even more frightening, gingivitis has been associated with conditions as threatening as heart disease and stroke [Source: Bahekar, Seymour]. Patients with poor oral health may be setting off an inflammatory process that affects the entire body. Much of the concern rests in the various bacteria that can inhabit the mouth, instigating inflammatory markers that cause problems elsewhere, such as the heart. Oral health must be maintained in order to prevent other chronic conditions.
Daily flossing and brushing are obvious strategies for prevention, but there are others. Tobacco users need to be aware that their habit is not only abusive to their vital organs and function, but their gums as well [Source: Erdemir]. Smokers with gum disease can have a very difficult time improving the status of their condition and face depleted folic acid in the gum tissue [Source: Erdemir].
As is true in nearly all cases of the body, diet will play a major role. Refined sugar intake from processed foods such as sweets, white flour and pastries will devastate the teeth and gums. These ingredients are tough on the body’s defenses against bad bacteria. Bacteria in return, love this food source and flourish in a high-sugar environment. The famous dentist Dr. Weston A. Price found in the 1920s and '30s that many primitive cultures throughout the world had very little, if any, tooth and gum problems as the body was fed highly nutritious foods and void of refined sugars, even without access to vitamin supplements. Today, pop and other sugars are an ever-present enemy to dental health. Given the mass quantities of processed foods available, attention to the diet, consistent dental care and flossing are a must.
CoQ10 is held in high regard for gum health. This vitamin feeds the powerhouse of all our cells, the mitochondria. Proven to benefit gingivitis, COQ10 dosages should start at 50-100 mg for prevention [Source: Wilkinson]. Patients who have been told they have more significant gum disease should start at 100-200 mg daily, taken with food.
Other nutrients may also benefit those with significant gum disease. Research has shown that levels of vitamin E are depleted in diseased gum tissue [Source: Battino]. Doses of 400 IU (international units) daily would be an additional treatment to the CoQ10. Vitamin C is very important for the formation of connective tissue. In addition to getting at least 6 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, vitamin C could be taken at 1,000 mg daily. A naturally occurring sugar called xylitol is thought to help benefit the health of the mouth by restricting certain bacterial growth and damage to the teeth [Source: Lynch]. Xylitol is a sweet-tasting substance found in many sources including the river birch tree, and is used to flavor chewing gums and mints. It also comes as a sweetener to use in place of sugar. Xylitol does not typically raise blood sugar levels in diabetics, however this may vary. It does appear to hep prevent cavities in addition to regular brushing.
No matter a person’s age, gum health is an important issue. As my grandfather often reminded me as he reached in and removed his dentures, “Be true to your teeth, or they will be false to you.”