Last week, we chatted about how your microbiome affects your longevity. Now let’s meander to the other end of your 30-foot-long alimentary canal, up to your mouth, specifically your gums.
WholeHealth Chicago patients know we do a check on the health status of their mouths during the physical exam, asking about their dental visits or lack thereof. The COVID pandemic has wreaked havoc as far as dental health goes. Patients have postponed cleanings, repair work, and so forth. Dentists report an epidemic of increased tooth decay and gum disease from postponed appointments as well as cracked teeth from jaw clenching and long outworn night guards.
In the process, lots of dentists have permanently closed shop, so if you do have a good dentist, call for an appointment and open wide. By the way, their offices are meticulously clean. You might get COVID buying your toothbrush at a Walmart, but it’s unlikely you’ll get it from your dentist (who will give you a freebie anyway).
I recently felt a personal swelling of pride when my dentist stuck his (gloved) fingers in my mouth, pulled my lips back to my earlobes, and announced that I had “youthful gums”, “youthful” never being an adjective ever applied to any of my otherwise decrepit body parts.
“Fank foo!” I cheerily answered. Then he removed his fingers. I was about to launch into a brief informative lecture about gum health and longevity, but he was back in a flash with more fingers and more equipment so instead I’ll just write this Health Tip.
The first stage of gum inattention and neglect leads to gingivitis. While on the subject, gingiva is simply the medical term for gums. Yes, the condition could be called ‘gumitis’, but it’s not.
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums. It is very common, and most people will experience it at some point in their lives. The main symptom of gingivitis is bleeding gums. Other symptoms may include red, swollen, or tender gums. Gingivitis is typically caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the surfaces of the teeth and gums. If this sticky plaque is not removed by regular brushing or a dental hygienist, it can harden into tartar, which can further cause irritation of the gums, resulting in bleeding. Gingivitis is completely preventable and treatable. If it is not treated, gingivitis can result in periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease.
Periodontitis follows untreated gingivitis and can be serious. It can destroy the supporting structures of the teeth, including the alveolar bone. Periodontitis is one of many major causes of tooth loss in American adults and is entirely preventable with proper oral health habits. Since the dental specialists who treat this condition, periodontists, are quite expensive, as you refinance your condo to pay your bill, you’ll think, “If I had only brushed and flossed, none of this would be happening.”
Symptoms of periodontitis:
- Gums that bleed easily,
- Red, swollen, or tender gum tissues,
- Gums that pull away from your teeth,
- Pus between your teeth and gums,
- Loose teeth,
- Sensitive teeth,
- Changes in the natural bite alignment,
- Persistent bad breath.
Consider chronic gum disease (which can begin in childhood and be present for decades) as a constant source of infection seeding bacteria into your bloodstream. Your immune system responds with steady state inflammation, irritating the linings of your blood vessels and rendering them susceptible to deposits of cholesterol.
Here’s a list of conditions known to be significantly higher among patients with chronic gingivitis and periodontitis:
- Cardiovascular diseases (strokes, heart attacks, vascular dementia),
- Alzheimer’s Disease (from chronic inflammation),
- Certain cancers (mouth, tongue, esophagus, stomach, pancreas),
- Autoimmune diseases,
- Increased fatality from COVID infection,
- Increased pregnancy complications and birth defects.
So, anyone with a sand grain of intelligence who reads this list can see the connection between healthy gums and longevity. Skeptics can read this link from the New York Times “Healthy Gums May Signal a Longer Life.”
The best gum maintenance, of course, are twice daily brushings, flossings (although a Waterpik is better), and a dental checkup at least twice a year.
If you’ve been told you have some “mild inflammation”, here’s a ritual using natural products that may save you a visit to a periodontist and undergoing that procedure whose name makes my toes curl, a “gum scaling”.
Right up front, this is a little complicated, but given the alternative, it’s worth the effort.
You will need:
- High absorption Coenzyme Q-10 (UBQH) 100 mg,
The CoQ10 is the easiest: just take one capsule daily.
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays: after brushing your teeth, brush your gums GENTLY, with the softest toothbrush you can find. Then, open a vitamin E capsule with a pin, squeeze out the oil, and massage it into your gum line with your finger.
On Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays: after brushing your teeth, brush your gums GENTLY, using the powdered vitamin C as a tooth powder. Rinse.
Every night at bedtime: after brushing your teeth, use a cotton swab to paint your gum line with liquid folic acid.
You’ll notice results in about 3 to 4 weeks. Think of the thrill of unalloyed pleasure you’ll experience from hearing, “Looks like we don’t have to work on those youthful gums of yours. Good job!”
Another step to your longevity.
David Edelberg, MD