Gum disease affects everyone and is not exclusively a childhood disease. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates about half of all American adults tend to have advanced gum disease at the time of diagnosis. This is because gum disease rarely produces uncomfortable symptoms until its late stages. While dentists look for specific signs to diagnose gum disease, certain symptoms may indicate underlying gum problems. Symptoms such as red, swollen, and painful gums, bleeding while brushing and flossing, constant bad breath, or a bad taste in the mouth due to bacterial infection in gum pockets, warrant attention and further evaluation. There are studies proving a connection between gum disease and other systemic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and many others.
Gum disease starts with infection and inflammation of the gums. It consists of two stages: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is milder with little or no discomfort, the bacteria in the plaque buildup slowly destroy the gum line leading to bleeding gums. Periodontitis is an advanced stage where gum pockets lead to the destruction of supporting soft tissue and bones.
Although poor oral hygiene is one of the major contributing factors for gum disease, other risk factors are smoking, hormonal changes (during puberty, pregnancy, or menopause), genetic predisposition, and systemic diseases including diabetes and chronic deficiency of micronutrients such as vitamin C, lysine, and proline. A complete deficiency of vitamin C leading to scurvy is marked by bleeding gums as the first sign of the disease. Vitamin C and lysine are the key micronutrients that are required for building healthy collagen tissue, which holds the gums and teeth together.
We designed a pilot clinical trial to document the effects of specific micronutrient combinations in patients with periodontitis*. We chose “bleeding-on-probing” (BoP) as a diagnostic measurement to assess the efficacy. For twelve weeks, study participants took a combination of vitamin C, lysine, proline and other micronutrients essential for healthy collagen.
The average BoP at the beginning of the study was 60%, corresponding to an advanced stage of gum disease. The BoP started decreasing after six weeks on the micronutrient program and fell to 14% by the end of eight weeks. This continued until the end of the trial for all participants. We also noticed a significant improvement in gum firmness and a reduction in spontaneously bleeding gums.
Conventional dentistry treats periodontitis with procedures such as scaling and root planing, and additionally utilizes surgical repairs and dental implants. For most people these procedures are both very invasive and cost prohibitive. Our study provides proof that a simple combination of specific micronutrients is an inexpensive and effective method to maintain healthy gums, in addition to regular and thorough dental hygiene practices. Furthermore, micronutrient supplementation provides many other overall health benefits as well.
*Cellular Health Communication, Vol 1, No. 1, 2001