Bad Gums, Bad Heart
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
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
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 magnesium.
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
Three dietary supplements, garlic and
Q10 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
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.