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How Poor Oral Health Promotes Systemic Diseases

November 2004

By Nelson Wood, DMD, DSc, MS

LE Magazine November 2004
How Poor Oral Health Promotes Systemic Diseases
By Nelson Wood, DMD, DSc, MS

Nutrients to Improve Oral Health
Nutritional and botanical therapies have demonstrated positive effects for people with gingivitis, gingival bleeding, periodontal pocketing, and periodontal attachment and bone loss. Topical and systemic nutritional supplementation may be a beneficial adjunct to gingivitis and periodontitis therapy.

The benefits of the nutrients in the Life Extension™ toothpaste formulation have been scientifically researched in both the dental and medical literature. Its unique formulation includes coenzyme Q10, tea tree oil, xylitol, hydrogen peroxide, folic acid, lactoferrin, and squalene.27,28

Topical application of CoQ10 to periodontal pockets has been associated with significant improvements in gingivitis and bleeding of the gums.29 In one clinical study, topical application of CoQ10 was so effective in promoting healing and reducing periodontal pocket depth that after five to seven days of treatment, the diseased gingival sites were difficult to locate.30

Patients with periodontitis frequently have significant gingival and white-blood-cell CoQ10 deficiencies, indicating both a local and a systemic nutritional imbalance. A local deficiency of CoQ10 could predispose the gingiva to periodontitis, and periodontitis could even exacerbate systemic CoQ10 deficiency.31 Topical application of CoQ10 improves adult periodontitis not only as an individual treatment, but also in combination with traditional non-surgical periodontal therapy.29 CoQ10 is also known for its cardioprotective properties.32

Tea tree oil (melaleuca alternifolia) is known for its antiseptic, fungicidal, and bactericidal effects.33 It has been found to be effective in reducing oral bacteria.33 Topically applied tea tree oil gel was found to significantly reduce gingivitis and bleeding of the gums in people with severe gingivitis.34

Xylitol, a naturally occurring sweetener that is not fermentable by cavity-inducing oral bacteria, demonstrates numerous benefits in promoting oral health. When tested as a dietary supplement, xylitol was associated with impressive reductions in cavity incidence. Xylitol may decrease the production of acids that demineralize the teeth.35 It may also stimulate the production of saliva, a helpful effect for individuals taking medications that produce mouth dryness. The use of xylitol is compatible and complementary with all current oral hygiene recommendations. Its pleasant taste facilitates a wide array of applications to promote oral health.36

Hydrogen peroxide, long used for its antiseptic properties, has been shown to inhibit plaque formation and to reduce gingivitis.37 Its bubbling action exposes oral bacteria that are difficult to reach with ordinary brushing and flossing, promoting a more thorough cleansing of the teeth and gums.

Folic acid is required by the body on a daily basis to build new cells, and is essential for the integrity of the gingival tissues. Topical folic acid in the form of mouthwash has been shown to be effective in the treatment of gingivitis and its accompanying inflammation. Folic acid significantly reduces gingival redness and bleeding of the gums in people with gum disease.38 This effect is thought to be the result of topical application of folic acid and not of its systemic influences. Denture wearers and individuals with impaired dentition have significantly lower blood and dietary levels of folate.39,40 Dietary folic acid supplementation may also increase the resistance of the gingiva to local irritants.41

Lactoferrin has been shown to reduce the adhesion of several bacteria found in the oral cavity,42,43 to stop the growth of periodontitis-causing bacteria,43 and to kill cavity-causing bacteria.43 In a study of cats, lactoferrin powder appeared to offer benefits in resolving oral lesions when applied locally.44

Squalene, a nutrient with a chemical makeup similar to vitamin A, is easily emulsified and spreads easily. Squalene has been shown to be effective in inducing bone formation45 and improving immune health. The squalene in the Life Extension™ toothpaste formula is derived from shark liver oil.

Good oral health is an important component of overall health and well-being. When oral health is compromised, as in conditions such as periodontitis, consequences may reach far beyond the oral cavity. Periodontitis is associated with an increased risk of illnesses that affect the entire body. These include rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis, and complications of pregnancy. Protecting oral health is therefore critical to maintaining overall health.

Conventional treatment for periodontitis may not always be enough to maintain optimal oral health. Nutritional therapeutics may be useful adjuncts in improving healing, reducing inflammation, and strengthening the body’s immune system. These nutritional approaches include coenzyme Q10, folic acid, xylitol, lactoferrin, and squalene. These nutrients may be useful when used internally as well as when applied topically to the oral tissues. Optimizing oral health is an important step in preventing disease and promoting a long and healthy life.


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