Is gum disease a risk factor for heart disease?
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 health breakthrough.
DePaola, writing in the December 1997 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 stroke.
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 disease.
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; and
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.
Three dietary supplements,
coenzyme Q10and 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 Supplement )
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.