Natural help for gum disease

December 20, 2007

Noticed your gums are inflamed and tender or bleed slightly when brushing your teeth? These, together with receding gums, chronic bad breath and loose teeth or widening space between gums and teeth are symptoms of gum disease.

Gum disease starts with plaque on the teeth which is formed when bacteria in the mouth mixes with saliva and residues from starchy foods and sugar in your diet. If you don’t remove it properly then it accumulates and hardens underneath the gumline into tartar. That is much more difficult to remove than everyday plaque and will mean a visit to the dentist. If you have bleeding from the gums with pain, called periodontitis, then that is a sign that the infection and inflammation has spread to the deeper tissues and bone. After the age of 30, periodontitis is responsible for more tooth loss than cavities. Brushing your teeth after every meal, and especially after eating anything containing sugar, is a good preventive programme but there is also natural help on hand.

Vitamin C
The link between vitamin C deficiency and gum disease is well known and is one of the reasons that back in the 18th century, sailors ate limes during long trips at sea to keep their gums from bleeding. It probably helped the taste of the rum as well. There is research showing a link between low intake of vitamin C and higher rates of gum disease, particularly gingivitis, so make sure you have a minimum of 250mg a day and eat foods rich in vitamin C, such as grapefruit, oranges, kiwi fruit, mango, papaya, strawberry, red pepper, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cantaloupe melon. If you are taking supplements, don’t get the chewable vitamin C because the acidity may promote the erosion of tooth enamel over time.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D has been found to have anti-inflammatory effects and may reduce susceptibility to gum disease, again research by Boston University shows a link between low levels of vitamin D and gingivitis. Being out in sunlight is one of the best ways to boost levels of this vitamin so get out into the sun wherever you can and no need for sun block at this time of year, unless of course you are off to the Caribbean for the winter.

Stress reduction
Of course stress affects virtually every aspect of your health and wellbeing, but in this context it contributes to gum disease by increasing plaque accumulation. A University of Dusseldorf study examined how exam stress would impact plaque and gum bleeding. All students had a professional tooth cleaning 4 weeks prior to exams and then 4 weeks after exams. They found that students had significantly higher rates of plaque and gingivitis after their exams compared to a control group of students that didn’t take exams. I suspect they didn’t take into account the fact that under stress our diets also lean heavily on sugar and chocolate which also increases plaque.

Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil has so many uses it’s invaluable in my natural first aid box and as it has proven antibiotic properties it can help reduce gingivitis and bleeding, but it won’t reduce the amount of plaque. You must NOT use neat tea tree oil in the mouth or anywhere else. You can get tea tree toothpaste from a health store or you can put one drop in a cup of warm water and rinse it round your gums. DO NOT SWALLOW but spit it out immediately and I suggest you don’t eat or drink for at least 15 minutes as it tastes pretty grim.


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