Health news in 1997 included the idea that gum disease is a risk factor
for heart disease. As interesting (silly? far-fetched?) as the idea that
bleeding gums result in heart attack appears to some, it is a serious
thought to others. Prevention magazine’s dental advisor, Dominick
DePaola, D.D.S., Ph.D., has listed the gums-heart connection as a 1997
DePaola, writing in the December1997 issue of
Prevention, notes that the pockets formed in gum disease have one of the
highest concentrations of bacteria in the body. This bacteria can "leak"
into the bloodstream and be carried to the heart. The bacteria then have
the potential to damage the heart walls or valves. The bacteria may also
spur blood clotting, which, in turn, can result in heart attack or
If this is true, gum disease could be quite the heart risk
factor. After all, some 50 percent of the adult population have gum
problems. It is probably worthwhile, then, to do something about gum
Gum disease—periodontal disease—starts with bacteria.
Within hours of eating, bacteria and bacterial products form plaque. In
small amounts and when newly formed, plaque is harmless. However, if it
builds up, the some 300 types of bacteria found in plaque have a field
day. They multiply, causing more plaque, and lead to gum disease.
It is possible to eliminate or slow the growth of bacteria and
progression of gum disease, especially if you practice preventive health
or catch gum disease early in the game.
What to do
Good personal hygiene works. If you notice you have
inflamed gums or a bit of pink on your toothbrush, pay more attention to
your dental habits. Brush well and floss. Be sure to do so before going
to bed. It is at this time that the bacteria reach their highest count
(because the fluids in your mouth are stagnant). Brushing and flossing
before bed lowers the bacterial count before it naturally rises. In the
morning, brush and floss again after breakfast to cut back the bacteria
that developed overnight.
The role of nutrition
Nutrition is important to gum health.
According to Flora Parsa Stay, D.D.S., in The Complete Book of Dental
Remedies, some important nutrients for oral health are vitamins A, C, D,
E, and K and the B vitamins; folic acid; biotin; choline; calcium; zinc;
Stay says that calcium and magnesium are important
for healthy bones; that vitamin A helps fight infection; that the
vitamin B complex is involved in the production of energy; that vitamin
C is an important component of connective tissue and aids bleeding,
unhealthy gums; and that zinc promotes healing.
supplements, garlic, coenzyme Q10, and aloe vera, are helpful to gum
health. Because garlic functions as a natural antibiotic, it can help
cut down on gum bacteria. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) may help with periodontal
pocket depth. In early research, Dr. Edward G. Wilkinson, of the U.S.
Air Force Medical Center, gave patients 50 mg of CoQ10 a day. His
patients experienced reduced periodontal pocket depth. Wilson said,
"Treatment of periodontitis with coenzyme Q10 should be considered as an
adjunctive treatment with current dental practice." Later studies have
reconfirmed this. Hanioka, et al., say "These results suggest that the
topical application of CoQ10 improves adult periodontitis . . . "
(Molecular Aspects of Medicine 15 Supple )
Aloe vera is known to kill bacteria. Studies done by Dr. Eugene R.
Zimmerman and Dr. Ruth A. Sims (Aloe Vera of America Archives,
Stabilized Aloe Vera I) note that aloe does have bactericidal
properties. This means it may be useful in periodontal disease, which is
a bacterial infection. Simply rub the liquid or gel on the gums.
So, have a great smile and a healthy heart at the same time!
Guarding healthy gums
- Avoid sugar, and if you do eat it, brush afterward.
- Make sure your diet gives you proper amounts of vitamins and minerals.
- Floss daily.
- Brush after every meal to remove food particles. Use a soft toothbrush,
and be sure to brush the gums and tongue.
- See a dentist regularly for a more thorough cleaning