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Great Gum Disease Prevention Advice
Great Gum Disease Prevention Advice
Your smile can be one of your greatest assets. But how you take care of your mouth can affect more than just your pearly whites. “Numerous studies have linked periodontal disease to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, pulmonary problems and even Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. Steven Morris, a Las Vegas-based dentist.
In a 2011 study in the Journal of Dental Research, researchers at the University College London found that people with poor oral health had nearly twice the risk of dying from heart or respiratory disease. In a 2007 animal study in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, investigators at the National University of Singapore discovered that diabetics with poor metabolic control had more severe cases of periodontal disease. And a 2011 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease reported a connection between inflamed gums and cognitive impairment.
Don’t think you’re immune just because you brush twice a day. According to the American Dental Association, 75 percent of all adults over the age of 35 suffer from some form of periodontal disease. The most common, gingivitis, is marked by inflamed and tender gums that bleed easily. Left untended, gingivitis can lead to serious gum problems and eventual tooth loss.
Brush up on your technique
The first step to healthier gums is brushing and flossing daily. But a lick and a promise simply won’t do. According to Morris, brushing often misses the sulcus—the small space between the tooth and the gum. He recommends holding your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your teeth and gums. Apply slight pressure and use a small back-and-forth motion so that the bristles slip into the sulcus.
No matter how frequently you brush, the bacterial plaque remaining on your teeth can only be completely removed by flossing. Wrap a piece of dental floss into a “C” shape, then scrape both sides of each tooth to snare any hidden plaque. “Make sure you move the floss up and down each tooth, not back and forth,” says Morris.
As a finishing touch, many of us reach for mouthwash in an attempt to kill the bacteria that brushing and flossing miss. But most over-the-counter products are simply breath fresheners and do nothing to eliminate the offending bacteria. “Natural mouthwashes, on the other hand, can affect the surface tension of the teeth and gums and make it more difficult for bacteria to stick,” explains Dr. Jim Maxey, a natural dentist in Tulsa, Okla.
Two nutrients to look for in your mouthwash are coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and the herb selfheal (Prunella vulgaris). CoQ10 made headlines in the world of dentistry in 1994 after a study in Molecular Aspects of Medicine found that, applied topically, this potent antioxidant reduced bleeding and pocket depth in the gums of people with gingivitis. More recently, Toxicology In Vitro reported on research conducted in 2009 by Czech scientists that identified the anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties in selfheal that inhibited the formation of bacterial plaque that contributes to gingivitis.
How supplements can help
Supplements can help protect your gums too. Probiotics—the beneficial bacteria linked to good digestion—can improve periodontal health. A 2008 clinical trial conducted at Tohoku University in Japan found that, among 66 volunteers with gingivitis, those taking supplemental Lactobacillus probiotics experienced less plaque buildup and better gum health than those taking a placebo.
According to British researchers at the University of Birmingham, glutathione may be another key to good oral health. Glutathione is a small protein made from three amino acids— cysteine, glutamic acid and glycine. It’s an incredibly powerful antioxidant that safeguards gum tissue by fighting inflammation and enhancing the power of other antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. Yet a University of Birmingham study, which appeared in a 2010 issue of the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, found that people with gingivitis and other periodontal diseases have low levels of this vital antioxidant. Fortunately, you can maintain healthy levels of glutathione with a daily dose of 100 mg of the reduced type of this antioxidant.
Taking supplemental omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in fish oil, can also help keep gingivitis at bay. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a fatty acid found in cold-water fish such as salmon, may help fight gum disease, according to research from the Harvard School of Public Health that appeared in the November 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. The five-year study of nearly 10,000 adults showed that people who regularly consumed DHA were up to 20 percent less likely to have periodontal disease. That’s not surprising since a concurrent clinical trial in the journal Nutrition found that people with low DHA levels were 1.5 times more likely to suffer from gingivitis and other types of periodontal disease.
Since most Americans don’t routinely eat fatty fish, taking a daily fish oil supplement that provides both DHA and its companion fatty acid, EPA, can be a smile-smart strategy when paired with probiotics, glutathione and good dental hygiene.