Gingivitis is an inflammation that causes the gums to become red, swollen, and spongy. Gums that bleed easily tend to indicate gingivitis. Over time, the inflammation causes pockets to form and deepen between the teeth and gums. Gingivitis is also a sign of periodontal disease, which affects the tooth structure and jaw bone, causing receding gums and tooth abscesses. Left untreated, periodontal disease leads to tooth loss.
Research has shown that gum disease is an indicator of systemic and chronic disease, including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and mental decline. People with periodontal disease have two to three times the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular events. Some research also indicates that root-canal fillings cause the leakage of bacteria that could lead to arthritis and other auto-immune diseases.
Gingivitis and periodontal disease are caused by plaque build-up and food particles lodging between the teeth. Progressive build-up of plaque will speed up tooth erosion, gum inflammation and ultimately tooth loss. This can be minimised by good dental hygiene – regular and thorough brushing and use of dental floss. Studies indicate that, in general, electric toothbrushes do remove more plaque than manual toothbrushes and are therefore more effective in decreasing gingivitis over time.
Nutrition is an important factor in maintaining gum health. Apples and carrots are foods that clean the teeth, while soft foods tend to lodge between the teeth and allow bacteria to increase plaque build-up. A lack of vitamin C causes the gums to become swollen and spongy and bleed easily. Even emotional stress can increase susceptibility to gum problems, due to decreased saliva production during stress. Mouth breathing also reduces salivation.
The possibility that silver amalgam dental fillings may exacerbate the problem is a hotly debated topic. However, if you have amalgam fillings and have concerns about them, it may be worth a discussion with a holistic dentist.
- Sugar in all its forms is probably the most significant contributor to gum disease, since it increases plaque formation and inhibits the function of white blood cells (which protect your body against infection).
- Foods high in vitamin C are helpful in the treatment of gingivitis – vitamin C maintains collagen (essential to hold your teeth firmly in the gums). It also stimulates the immune system and promotes healing.
- Dairy products from cows should be minimal – some research indicates that milk is even more detrimental to the teeth and gums than sugar.
- Foods high in bioflavonoids (such as berries, parsley, onions, and citrus fruit) are beneficial as they are naturally anti-inflammatory.
- Xylitol helps reduce the risk of tooth decay by enhancing saliva flow. This helps to stabilize the overall pH levels in your mouth, which in turn decreases the harmful bacteria responsible for gingivitis and periodontitis. Xylitol can be dissolved in water and used as a mouthwash.
Nutritional supplement treatment options
Folic acid – A folic acid solution used as a mouth rinse (5 ml twice daily for 30 to 60 days) has been shown to reduce gum inflammation and bleeding in people with gingivitis. The folic acid solution should be rinsed in the mouth for one to five minutes and then spat out.
Vitamin C deficiency increases the risk for periodontal disease. Studies on people with periodontitis who normally consume low levels of vitamin C per day have shown objective improvement of their periodontal tissue in only six weeks when their vitamin C intake was increased to recommended daily amounts. There is no real evidence that supplemental vitamin C has a beneficial effect for people who already consume adequate amounts of the vitamin in their diet. However, vitamin C alongside a supplement of bioflavonoids has shown good improvement of gingival health.
CoQ10 (coenzyme Q10) deficiency has been linked to gingivitis. It is likely that this is because a lack of coQ10 will interfere with the body’s ability to repair damaged gum tissue.
Hyaluronic acid is an important connective tissue component in the gums. Topical application of hyaluronic acid to the gums is effective in reducing bleeding tendency and other indicators of gingivitis.
Calcium may help to reduce symptoms in people with periodontal disease (bleeding gums and loose teeth). This may be best prescribed in conjunction with silica.
Vitamin A is important for healthy mucous membranes.
Vitamin E supports the healing of mucous membranes.
Niacin (vitamin B3) has also been shown to be effective at reducing gingivitis.
Botanical treatment options
Neem – studies have shown that neem leaf extract in a gel applied twice daily was more effective than chlorhexidine (the disinfectant in medical mouthwashes) or placebo gel at reducing plaque and bacteria levels in the mouth.
A mouthwash combination that includes sage oil, peppermint oil, menthol, chamomile tincture, expressed juice from echinacea, myrrh tincture, clove oil and caraway oil has been used successfully to treat gingivitis.
A number of other homemade mouthwashes have been shown effective in the treatment of gingivitis; including lemongrass oil, aloe vera and tea tree oil.
Turmeric has natural anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties. It can be mixed with coconut oil, applied to the gums and left for 10 minutes before rinsing. Turmeric – despite staining everything else bright orange! – has the added benefit of acting as a natural tooth whitener.
Coconut oil may help to decrease plaque build up and reduce inflammation. Studies have shown that oil pulling with coconut oil for 30 days can significantly decrease plaque build up and signs of gingivitis.
Article contributed by Dr Tracy S Gates, DO, DIBAK, L.C.P.H., Consultant, Pure Bio Ltd. Copyright © Pure Bio Ltd 2022. All rights reserved. Pure Bio Ltd are a leading UK supplier of the highest quality PURE nutritional supplements, based in Horsham, West Sussex. Visit www.purebio.co.uk for all your nutritional supplement needs.
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