Condition Spotlight: Periodontal Disease
Periodontal (gum) disease is the inflammation or degradation of the tissue that surrounds and supports the teeth. The most common and initial form of periodontal disease is gingivitis, which can be short-lived or chronic. Untreated gingivitis involves more than the gums around the teeth—it can even lead to erosion of the underlying bone. When this happens, the condition is called periodontitis.
Symptoms of periodontal disease include red, inflamed gum tissue that bleeds easily from flossing, brushing teeth, or eating hard foods like apples. While this bleeding is often painless, it is usually indicative of a more serious problem.
Risk factors for periodontal disease include those with poor oral hygiene and too much bacterial plaque. It’s worth noting that during pregnancy and puberty—both times of hormonal fluctuation—a person is at greater risk for periodontal disease. Other possible contributing factors to consider include folic acid and B-vitamin deficiencies.
Gingivitis can also be one of the first signs of debilitating and deadly disease such as diabetes, leukemia, and heavy metal toxicity. Hydrochloric acid deficiency, insufficient calcium, and a magnesium or zinc imbalance can contribute to periodontal disease.
Diet plays an important role in any condition, and gingivitis is no different. A whole-food diet with fresh fruits and vegetables (blueberries, hawthorne berries, and grapes, particularly), high-fiber foods, and minimal amounts of refined carbohydrates (like sugar) should improve gingivitis. Cleansing the mouth with water in the morning and evening flushes away bad bacteria, as does gentle tooth brushing.
Nutritional therapy, such as flossing and rinsing the mouth (for one minute) with liquid folic acid has been shown to be beneficial. Vitamin C (1 to 3 g daily) with bioflavonoids, vitamin A (25,000 IU daily for several months), calcium (650-1,500 mg daily), a vitamin B complex, beta carotene, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, and zinc are helpful in treating gingivitis.
While periodontitis, the advanced form of periodontal disease should be treated by a healthcare professional gingivitis can be cared for at home. This includes Ayurveda, herbal remedies, juice therapy, and topical treatments. To soothe bleeding gums, Ayurveda calls for drinking lemon water, massaging gums with coconut oil, goldenseal, bayberry, or myrrh. Taking 5 grams of amla powder in one cup of water is another option.
Herbal remedies include equal tinctures of myrrh and Echinacea applied to the gums three times daily. A mouthwash made from sage or chamomile (be careful not to swallow) will bring relief. Juice therapy calls for carrot or cantaloupe, or any produce high in beta carotene.
Topical treatments include brushing teeth with a mixture of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. For bleeding gums and discharge of pus, one teaspoon apple cider vinegar in a cup of water, used morning and evening as a mouthwash, should provide relief. Applying chlorophyll directly to the gums, rinsing with diluted hydrogen peroxide, or using toothpaste that contains tea tree oil, citrus seed extract, or hydrogen peroxide can help reverse gingivitis, as well.