Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that support our teeth. Classified according to severity, in its mildest form, gingivitis, the gums can become reddened, swell and bleed easily. When left unchecked, it can become a more serious disorder, periodontitis, which can lead to tooth loss.
Dental plaque is the primary cause of both gingivitis and periodontitis. Plaque is an adhesive fluid made up of epithelial cells, mucin and bacteria. It begins to form about 12 hours after we brush our teeth. If it is not removed, mineral salts in the foods we eat trigger the formation of tartar (calculus). The calculus is irritating to gum tissue. It also changes the pH in the mouth, allowing bad bacteria to thrive and eventually eat away at the support structures that hold our teeth in place.
There are a number of factors that can underscore periodontal disease. Some people are genetically predisposed to this disorder. Other causes can include poor oral hygiene, smoking/tobacco use, hormonal changes including pregnancy in women, diabetes, certain medications, stress, clenching the teeth or nutritional deficiencies.
It’s possible to have periodontal disease without any warning signs; however, there are several things that can indicate a problem. Red, swollen and tender gums that bleed easily is usually the earliest sign of a problem. If you find that your gums pull away from your teeth or if you are experiencing loose teeth and persistent bad breath, it may be a sign of a more serious problem.
Recommendations for wellness
- Brush your teeth twice a day and have regular dental checkups and professional cleanings.
- Flossing or using an interdental cleaner can help to remove bacteria and food particles from between the teeth.
- Chew your food thoroughly to stimulate your gums.
- Reduce sugar intake. This includes both snacks and drinks that are high in sugar. If you do consume foods that contain sugar, ideally, brush your teeth right away.
- Quit smoking. Smoking plays a significant role in over half of the chronic cases of periodontal disease.
- Supplement with calcium, folic acid and zinc. Deficiencies in these important nutrients may increase the permeability of gum tissues, making you more susceptible to bacterial plaque.
- If you suffer from bleeding gums, incorporate vitamin C into your health plan. Vitamin C promotes healing, especially from bleeding gums, and is known to help retard plaque growth.
- Herbal extracts can be made into a tea and used as a mouthwash. Herbs that can be used include hawthorn berry, echinacea and goldenseal. Hawthorn berry has a tightening effect on the gums if used over a period of time. Echinacea has anti-microbial properties, which can kill bacteria in the mouth and prevent infection. Goldenseal can be used whenever mouth sores or inflammation starts. It has a history of killing bacteria including the kind that causes periodontal disease.
- A mouthwash made from a combination of chamomile, echinacea and myrrh has been successfully used for treating gingivitis.
Folic acid can also be used as a mouth rinse. It has been shown to reduce the inflammation and bleeding often associated with periodontal disease.
- A couple of drops of olive leaf extract or tea tree oil on your toothbrush can arrest infection and kill the bacteria in the mouth.
- Aloe vera can be applied directly to inflamed gums and used to sooth the tissues in the mouth.
- Coenzyme Q10 increases tissue oxygenation and has been shown to help decrease receding gum lines.
- Clove oil can be used as a temporary relief for tooth or gum pain. Simply rub a drop or two on the affected area.