Preventing Disease by Improving your oral healthApril 2006
By Matthew Solan
How to Brush Away Gum Disease
The best way to fight gum disease and avoid periodontitis is to stop it before it starts. This means adopting a lifestyle that includes a healthy diet, regular exercise, daily brushing and flossing, and a visit to your dentist at least every six months. Just devoting yourself to a diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, along with regular exercise (five sessions of moderate activity or three of vigorous intensity each week), can reduce your chance of developing periodontitis by 40%.19
A review of 50 years of clinical trial data found that when it comes to proper brushing, brushing twice a day is optimal.20 Common sense might dictate that the longer and harder you brush, the better your likelihood of eliminating plaque. However, a group of European scientists discovered that the optimal method is to brush for about two minutes at medium force (150 grams of pressure) using a power toothbrush. They added that brushing longer and using more than 150 grams of pressure offered little additional benefit in removing plaque and that more vigorous cleaning may in fact be harmful. Heavy brushing may damage gums and wear down teeth, both of which can lead to oral health problems.21 Another recent study found that power (electric or electronic) toothbrushes were superior to manual ones in removing plaque and reducing gingivitis.22
Nutrients for Healthy Gums
Your toothpaste is a crucial weapon in the fight against gum disease. Many ingredients are effective in controlling gingivitis and promoting oral health. These include coenzyme Q10, xylitol, hydrogen peroxide, lactoferrin, folic acid, and squalene, as well as natural agents such as tea tree oil, green tea extract, and essential oils. Their benefits in helping to prevent gum disease are supported by the latest scientific research.
Coenzyme Q10. The antioxidant compound CoQ10 aids energy production in the body. Research has found that the gum tissue of people with periodontal disease is often significantly deficient in CoQ10.23 Initial evidence suggests that topical CoQ10 supplements may be effective in slowing periodontitis by reducing bleeding and swelling.24 While additional research is needed, the consensus is that CoQ10 helps supply the energy needed for the body to heal and repair mouth tissue.
Xylitol. Pure xylitol is a white crystalline substance that resembles and tastes like sugar. It is found naturally in fruits such as plums, strawberries, and raspberries. Xylitol is used commercially to sweeten sugarless gum and candies. It has 40% fewer calories than regular sugar and appears to have none of sugar’s negative effects on insulin release.25 It is also believed to prevent cavities by inhibiting the growth of cavity-causing bacteria such as Streptococcus mutans.26 A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 2,630 children compared a standard fluoride toothpaste with one that also contained 10% xylitol. Over a three-year period, children given the xylitol-enriched toothpaste developed notably fewer cavities than those using the fluoride-only toothpaste.27
Hydrogen peroxide. Commonly used in toothpastes and whitening gels to help eliminate stains and brighten teeth, hydrogen peroxide is also added to some mouthwashes to reduce gingivitis and whiten teeth.28 Its foaming action works to carry away food particles and bacteria from gum tissue.
While higher concentrations of the whitening agents hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide may damage tooth enamel, recent findings suggest that the concentrations of these agents found in over-the-counter dental care products pose negligible risk to tooth enamel.29 Hydrogen peroxide has been associated with DNA-damaging effects in some animal and cell studies; however, a recent review noted that dental care products containing hydrogen peroxide are unlikely to damage DNA in humans, and that such products can be used safely by the general population.30
Lactoferrin. Lactoferrin, a naturally occurring antimicrobial agent, is found in saliva and gingival fluid, as well as in breast milk, tears, and other bodily fluids. Lactoferrin may bind to and slow the growth of periodontitis-associated bacteria.31 In an animal study, locally applied lactoferrin powder appeared to support the healing of oral lesions.32
Folic acid. The body relies on folic acid for red blood cell production. Folic acid is the most commonly deficient B vitamin. A lack of folic acid can increase the risk of gingivitis, tongue inflammation, and periodontitis. Studies have shown that rinsing with 5 ml of mouthwash containing 5 mg of folic acid for one minute, twice daily, can improve gingivitis symptoms, including gum redness and bleeding.33 A 2004 study from India found that children who used folic acid along with proper oral hygiene practices reduced their incidence and severity of gingival overgrowth related to prescription drug use compared to a group that practiced only basic oral care.34
Tea tree oil. A recent study in the Australian Dental Journal showed that a toothpaste gel containing tea tree oil, used twice daily, reduces the presence of gingivitis compared to placebo.35 Tea tree oil’s anti-flammatory and antimicrobial properties may be responsible for its effects in promoting oral health.
Squalene. Extracted from shark liver oil, squalene has been embraced for its antioxidant properties. Squalene has been used as an adjunct therapy in the management of some cancers. A recent study found high doses of squalene to be beneficial against bacterial, viral, and fungal infections.36
Essential oils. Natural essential oils from cinnamon leaf, peppermint, and clove leaf act as natural breath fresheners. Steven Green, DDS, notes these natural oils “work longer than other similar ingredients used by many commercial toothpastes because they can soak into the gums and tissue.”
Green tea extract. Long em-braced for its antioxidant properties, green tea may also offer benefits for oral health. Green tea extract has been shown to help ease swollen gums in adults.37
There are many ways to improve one’s health: eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and periodically visiting your doctor. Health-conscious adults should add proper oral hygiene to this list of health fundamentals. Oral hygiene is a simple way to improve your well-being today and greatly increase your chances of enjoying a healthy, disease-free future.
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