Periodontal disease is a chronic gum infection that is thought to affect more than 30 percent of the population of the USA at some stage. The infection is caused by the bacteria present in plaque. The infection causes the gums to become inflamed (called gingivitis). If this is allowed to progress, the gums can erode away, along with the bone that holds the teeth in place. If left untreated, periodontal disease can cause the loss of teeth.
What causes periodontal disease?
The following factors increase the risk:
- Poor dental hygiene. It is vitally important to brush and floss your teeth each day, and have regular checkups with a dentist.
- Smoking cigarettes is a major risk factor. Nicotine reduces blood flow to the gums, and smokers who eat too few vegetables and fruits are very prone to periodontal disease.
- Stress increases the risk of all infections, including gum infections.
- Some medications cause a dry mouth as a side effect. The reduced saliva increases the risk of gum infections. These medications include some antihistamines, some antidepressants, anxiety medication, diuretics (fluid tablets), some asthma medication and drugs used for Parkinson’s disease. Radiation treatment to the head and neck as part of cancer therapy can damage the saliva glands and cause a chronic dry mouth.
- Lack of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in the diet. Vitamin C deficiency is a major contributor to periodontal disease. People who consume less than 60 mg of vitamin C per day (roughly the amount found in an orange) are nearly one and a half times more likely to develop severe gingivitis than people who consume at least 180 mg of vitamin C. A lack of zinc, selenium, vitamin A and vitamin E also increases the risk of gum disease.
- A high sugar intake. Sugar is fertiliser for bacteria and it weakens your immune system, thereby allowing infections to flourish. Avoid foods containing sugar and foods containing white flour.
Consequences of periodontal disease
Apart from the frightening prospect of losing one’s teeth, periodontal disease has a destructive impact on other parts of the body as well. People with gum disease are at significantly increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke. This is because the bacteria present in the gums travel to other parts of the body and release toxins that cause tissue destruction and inflammation. The bacteria irritate the lining of the arteries that travel to the heart and brain, promoting blood clots and the development of fatty plaques.
Periodontal disease worsens blood sugar control in diabetics; it aggravates lung conditions including bronchitis, emphysema and pneumonia. Interestingly, pregnant women with periodontal disease are seven to eight times more likely to give birth prematurely to a low birth weight baby.
Clearly the health of your gums should be a priority!
Preventing periodontal disease
Prevention is always better than cure. The following remedies will help to keep your gums and the rest of your body healthy:
- Eat lot of vegetables. Ideally you would eat two or three cups of chopped vegetables per day. Try to have as wide a variety of vegetables as you can; avoid eating the same few varieties each day. Cooked vegetables are fine but some of the vegetables you eat must be raw. Making your own raw vegetable juices is a tasty way to increase your vegetable intake. Fruit is important too but it is higher in sugar, therefore limit fruit to two servings per day.
- Green tea can protect your gums against infection. Research published in the Journal of Peridontology has found that the antioxidants present in green tea have an anti-inflammatory effect on the gums. Green tea contains 30 to 40 percent water soluble antioxidants (polyphenols), while black tea contains between three and ten percent. This particular study recruited 940 Japanese men aged between 49 and 59. Each cup of green tea consumed had a significantly beneficial effect on the health of the gums.
- Co-enzyme Q10 helps to prevent and treat periodontal disease. Co-Q10 is a powerful antioxidant and recent studies have shown that it has an affinity for gum tissue. 60 mg per day is the recommended dose and it needs to be topically applied to the gums. Most Co-Q10 comes in capsule form, therefore that means bursting the capsule and rubbing the contents on your gums with your finger.
- MSM helps to strengthen the gums. MSM stands for Methyl Sulfonyl Methane. It is a natural form of sulphur, which the body uses to produce connective tissue. The gums have a high requirement for sulphur. Ideally MSM is taken in powder form combined with vitamin C.
Healthy gums reflect a healthy body. Now you know how to keep your gums in top condition.