How Healthy Are Your Gums?

Over one in five Canadian adults have experienced gum disease, and a staggering 96% have a history of cavities! [1] Why should we care about our oral health and what can we do to keep gums and teeth healthy and strong? Let’s discover – open wide and say, “Aaah”!

How common is gum disease and why does it matter?
Seven in ten Canadians develop gum disease at some point in life, making it the most common dental problem around. [1] And it’s not just adults who have dental issues; close to 60% of young people aged 6–19 have or have had a cavity.[1]

When our teeth and gums aren’t in great shape, this can affect how and what we eat, and our ability to digest food and extract nutrients. Loose, lost, or painful teeth, and unhealthy gums are a common cause of undesirable weight loss, nutrient deficiencies, and even speech and communication problems.

Gum (or periodontal) disease is also a major contributing factor in other health issues, including cardiovascular disease and has recently been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. [2,3]

How to maintain healthy gums and teeth

Good gum and tooth care starts early in life, when caregivers clean an infant’s mouth even before the first tooth emerges. Toddlers often put up a fight over brushing, but it’s important to form this healthy habit early. Making brushing and flossing part of the routine helps keep fussing and fighting to a minimum and helps keep painful infections and sores at bay. Avoid using fluoridated toothpaste until your child is old enough to rinse and spit it out.

Besides brushing teeth twice a day and flossing once a day, it’s also a good idea to see a dental hygienist for an annual cleaning to help remove any tartar build-up.

Brushing and flossing help keep plaque to a minimum, but when plaque hardens into tartar, no amount of brushing or flossing can remove this scaly build-up. If left unaddressed tartar can lead to unhealthy gums and gum disease by encouraging bacterial infections.

If it’s been a while since you last saw a dentist, there’s no time like the present to book an appointment and get back on track. Establish a routine annual teeth cleaning for you and your family to help prevent gum disease and catch any problems early on.

Early gum disease is known as ginigivitis and usually manifests as slightly red gums that are a little puffy and prone to bleeding when brushing. If left untreated, gingivitis symptoms can worsen and gums may start to recede, which puts you at risk of losing teeth.

Proper brushing can help keep gingivitis at bay and prevent full-blown gum disease. Pay special attention to the tooth-gum line as this is where infection takes hold. Clean teeth and gums gently – scrubbing hard at the tissue can cause tissue damage. Make sure to clean behind upper and lower front teeth with the tip of your toothbrush, and clean all the way to the back of your back teeth.

Brushing should take around 2–3 minutes, with at least 30 seconds spent on each quadrant of your mouth. Electric toothbrushes have in-built timers to help keep you on track and are now recommended by most dental hygienists as the best way to clean your teeth well.

If you already have early stage gum disease (gingivitis), your dentist and dental hygienist can help remove tartar and give you some top tips for brushing and flossing more effectively. If gum disease is more severe (periodontitis), your dentist may refer you to a specialist (a periodontist) to discuss restoring gum and bone lost to gum disease. Brushing and flossing are even more important if you’re already showing signs of gum disease.

Other Top Tips for healthy gums and teeth

To keep teeth and gums healthy from an early age, encourage kids to drink water instead of juice, milk, carbonated drinks, or other beverages that contain sugar, phosphoric acids and citric acids that can erode tooth enamel. If these drinks are consumed, encourage your child to drink them in a single sitting, rather than having them “nurse” a bottle or juice box overnight or for an extended period.

Supporting tooth and gum health also means cutting down on sugary snack foods between meals, and never dipping a pacifier in sugary substances.

Because acids in foods and in saliva can temporarily soften tooth enamel, avoid brushing immediately after eating. Drink water after a meal and wait at least half an hour before brushing. This will help keep tooth enamel in good shape.

Natural supplements for strong teeth and healthy gums

Natural health products can also support oral health. Vitamin C, for instance, is vital for healthy gums and teeth as it is needed for proper immune function and to build collagen, the protein that forms most of our gum tissue and the scaffolding on which bones and teeth are built. BioCgel offers a convenient way to support collagen formation.

Vitamin D, magnesium, and vitamin K2 are other key nutrients needed for tooth health as they facilitate the absorption and use of calcium to build strong, healthy, bones and teeth. Only vitamin K2 as menaquinone-7 (MK7) offers 24-hour protection from a single daily dose, helping to direct calcium away from the arteries and into bones and teeth.[4]

Antioxidant nutrients also help support the health of gums, with Coenzyme Q10 noted for its role in maintaining healthy gum tissue.[5] Coenzyme Q10 is especially useful for anyone with concerns over the links between gum disease and cardiovascular and cognitive health issues.

Finally, newer research suggests that curcumin, the powerful antioxidant found in turmeric, may have specific benefits for dental health. Curcumin helps support a normal inflammatory response, can quash free radicals, and also exerts antimicrobial activity while modulating immune system activity. Both a curcumin paste and mouthwash have shown benefits in preliminary studies looking at the prevention of gum disease. [6,7]

In an absorbable form such as Theracurmin®, found in CurcuminRichTM, curcumin appears to protect against tissue damage in the gums related to infection with Porphyromonas gingivalis, the main bacterial cause of gum disease.[8]

Good oral health is essential for overall health and quality of life. Our mouths play a role in protecting us against microbial infections and are also extremely useful for eating, drinking, and communicating. Brushing twice a day, flossing daily, getting regular check-ups and cleanings, and making use of natural health products to support great tooth and gum health can help you maintain a happy, healthy mouth, and that’s certainly something to smile about.

 

References:

[1] Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS). Accessed March 28, 2019. Available: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/healthy-living/reports-publications/oral-health/canadian-health-measures-survey.html

[2] Harvard Medical School. Harvard Health Publishing. Gum Disease and Heart Disease: The Common Thread. Published March 2018. Accessed March 28, 2019. Available: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/gum-disease-and-heart-disease-the-common-thread

[3] Singhrao SK, Olsen I. Assessing the role of Porphyromonas gingivalis in periodontitis to determine a causative relationship with Alzheimer’s disease. J Oral Microbiol. 2019; 11(1):1563405.

[4] Schurgers LJ, Teunissen KJ, Hamulyak K, et al. Vitamin K-containing dietary supplements: comparison of synthetic vitamin K1 and natto-derived menaquinone-7. Blood. 2007;109(8):3279-83.

[5] Bliznakov EG, Hunt G. The Miracle Nutrient Coenzyme Q10. Bantam, 1986.

[6] Waghmare PF, Chaudhary AU, Karhadkar VM et al. Comparative evaluation of turmeric and chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwash in prevention of plaque formation and gingivitis: A clinical and microbiological study. J Contemp Dent Pract. 2011; 12:221-2.

[7] Çıkrıkçı S, Mozioglu E, Yılmaz H. Biological activity of curcuminoids isolated from Curcuma longa. Rec Nat Prod. 2008; 2:19-24.

[8] Asteriou E, Gkoutzourelas A, Mavropoulos A, et al. Curcumin for the Management of Periodontitis and Early ACPA-Positive Rheumatoid Arthritis: Killing Two Birds with One Stone. Nutrients. 2018; 10(7)pii: E908.