I've heard that certain supplements may be helpful for gum disease. Which ones work and are there any other effective natural remedies?
Periodontal or gum disease begins when the bacteria in dental plaque (that sticky colourless film that constantly forms on your teeth) cause the gums to become infected and inflamed.
The mildest form of gum disease is gingivitis, which usually causes little or no discomfort. Left untreated, though, it can progress to periodontitis, which attacks both the tissues and bones that support the teeth.
Signs of gingivitis are swelling and redness in the gums, and bleeding after brushing or flossing the teeth. Signs of periodontitis include bad breath, a foul taste in the mouth, a receding gum line, sensitive and loose teeth, abscesses and teeth falling out.
Besides daily brushing, flossing and visiting your dentist regularly, here are some natural remedies you could try to prevent or reverse gum disease.
This vitamin-like compound, found in practically every cell of the body, seems to be linked to gum disease. Studies suggest that up to 96 per cent of people with gum disease may have below-normal levels of CoQ10,1 and that supplementing with the nutrient can help reverse the condition.
In a study presented by Nihon University researchers at the 63rd Meeting of the Vitamin Society of Japan, held in Hiroshima, patients with mild-to-moderate gum disease were given ubiquinol (150 mg/day), an active form of CoQ10, or a placebo for two months.
At the end of the study, the ubiquinol group showed statistically significant improvements in the amount of plaque sticking to their teeth and bleeding gums. Another trial using a lower dose of CoQ10 (50 mg/day) for a shorter time had similar results.1
Suggested dosage: 50 mg/day
Periodontitis sufferers are more likely to have low blood levels of vitamin C, according to one study.2 And when people with this condition who normally consumed 20-35 mg/day of vitamin C had their dosages increased to 70 mg/day instead, their gum health improved in just six weeks.3
Suggested dosage: 1 g/day
These well-known anti-inflammatories, found naturally in oily fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel, may be worth a try for gum disease. Harvard researchers discovered that higher dietary intakes of the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and, to a lesser degree, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) were both associated with a lower prevalence of periodontitis in a study of more than 9,000 adults across the US.4
Catechins in green tea (Camellia sinensis) are good for the gums and bad for mouth bacteria, according to a review of a number of studies.5 In a rat study of gum disease, a dentifrice containing green-tea catechins significantly reduced inflammation of the gums,6 although these results may not apply to humans.
The twigs and roots of the 'toothbrush tree' (known as 'miswaks' or 'chewing sticks') have been used for centuries across North Africa as a natural way of cleaning the teeth and gums. A recent study found that benzyl isothiocyanate, a major component of the shrub's roots, is highly effective against the bacteria responsible for gum disease.7
Another study concluded that using miswaks is at least as effective as normal toothbrushing for reducing plaque and gingivitis.8
If you don't fancy chewing on a stick (available from www.auravita.com: the Takionic Natural Toothbrush, lb2.15), you could try an S. persica-containing toothpaste such as Sarakan (www.sarakan.co.uk) instead.
This sticky substance made by bees from plant resins is showing promise against a raft of dental problems-from plaque and cavities to gum disease and mouth ulcers. In a small preliminary study of a mouthwash containing 5 per cent Brazilian green propolis, twice-daily use significantly reduced plaque and gum inflammation after 90 days.9
A propolis mouthwash is available from www.beevital-uk.com.