Gum disease is characterised by red, swollen and bleeding gums. It is caused by a build up of plaque bacteria and tartar which is the calcified deposits formed when plaque is not removed adequately. These deposits if not cleaned off regularly or effectively cause inflammation and breakdown of the gums and support structures surrounding the teeth, leading to bone loss, infection and ultimately tooth loss in some cases. Gum disease is typically seen more frequently in people with poor oral hygiene and is often worse in people who have chronic illnesses and disease and those with poor or inadequate diet. The process of gum disease is accelerated and more prevalent in people who smoke, drink alcohol or take drugs; it is also more common in people with high levels of physical and emotional stress. Thus it would be fair to say that our lifestyle factors and overall wellbeing play a huge role in the health and condition of our gums.
Gum disease can be controlled or slowed down by regular professional dental cleaning and scaling which remove the build up of plaque and tartar (called calculus within the profession). This then needs to be maintained with good oral hygiene; brushing and flossing and the use of a non-alcohol based mouthwash; by improving the diet and perhaps the implementation of supplements or anti-inflammatory agents such as vitamin C, zinc, Co-enzyme Q-10 and the use of products such as liquid chlorophyll and liquid cherry juice concentrate which are antibacterial and anti-inflammatory in nature.
It is not unusual to see someone with adequate to high levels of oral care yet they present with severe gum disease despite their mouths appearing to be well cared for. It seems from this observation that brushing and flossing alone is simply not enough to prevent gum issues and that plaque build up is not the only reason as to why our gum health becomes compromised. Essentially our gums reflect how we live, how we take care of ourselves and the choices we make. So it is not surprising that our gums tend to bleed more when we are stressed, run down, emotional, lacking sleep or just plain too busy. Gum health is usually poorer in individuals who are low in essential vitamins and minerals or have blood disorders such as anaemia. For women gum health can deteriorate around their periods, menopause, post menopause and also during pregnancy and breast feeding. As mentioned earlier smoking, drinking alcohol and taking drugs also impacts severely on our gum health. It would seem then that gum health is directly linked to our overall health and level of vitality and thus anything that compromises our wellbeing will also compromise our body’s ability to maintain its harmonious state and this is reflected in the condition of our gums. It is as if when our body becomes physically, chemically or emotionally polluted this build up interferes with the body’s ability to care for itself and the immune response and control of inflammatory process becomes impaired or heightened. Could it be that when the body is in overload it attempts to release these pollutants via avenues such as the gums which we see as gum disease; no different to poison being released from the skin via a pimple for example.
If these choices to pollute the body continue long term then gum disease progresses creating more inflammatory damage resulting in periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is classified by gum pocketing as the gums start to peel off the teeth, bone damage and bone loss from around the teeth. Once periodontal disease is established the damage is irreversible and is liable to lead to infections, mobility or loosening of the teeth, pain and eventually tooth loss.
The factors involved in preventing and controlling gum disease are many fold yet simplistically they can be broken into two main categories, oral hygiene and wellbeing. Oral hygiene includes ensuring a high level of self care with regular and thorough brushing and flossing done in a gentle and focussed manner along with regular dental checks and professional dental cleans. Wellbeing would consist of addressing systemic illness and disease and lifestyle factors, improving the diet, introducing the use of supplements to support the body where appropriate, not overloading the body with stresses and assisting the body to regenerate and repair with our sleep habits and sleep quality. Sleep quality can be assisted by winding down the body before bed so as not to be too mentally or physiologically stimulated and by choosing to be in bed early on a regular basis.
The aetiology, causes and aggravating factors of gum disease are complex and therefore so is its treatment and prevention but by simply making choices that support the body then the body will naturally be able to support itself.