The gum surface area of your mouth is about the same size as the surface area of your arm. If your entire right arm had a red rash, you would notice and seek medical attention, yet too often I see patients who don’t even notice when their gums are red and inflamed.
Gum inflammation is called gingivitis, inflammation of the gums. The cause of this inflammation is a sticky, colorless film of bacteria that forms between the teeth and the gums, creating a layer of plaque. If the plaque isn’t removed daily by brushing, flossing, and/or water picking, it produces toxins that can irritate the gum tissue.
Over time, the gums will bleed and recede, meaning more and more tooth is exposed, and less and less is protected by the gums. Long term, this can lead to a person losing their teeth.
Yet this inflammation is not only limited to your gums. Studies have shown that gingivitis will increase body-wide inflammation dramatically, as people with gum inflammation have nearly double the high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) blood levels compared to people with healthy gums. This inflammation makes you achier, it slows your calorie burn rate and injures your tissues body wide. The good news is that proper dental care will heal your gums and bring your hs-CRP levels back to normal.
Studies have also shown that not only does gingivitis make you achy and cause you to gain weight; it increases your risk for arterial plaque growth as well. Dr. Desvarieux and colleagues followed 420 subjects over 3 years. Those with the most gum inflammation showed the most arterial plaque growth, as measured with carotid intima-media thickness scores (carotid IMT). Other studies have shown that not only does gingivitis cause plaque growth, but it increases your risk of heart attack and stroke by 25-30%.
Gum disease is also associated with an increased risk of memory loss and a drop in cognitive scores.
Several recent studies have shown that people with the most gum inflammation also have:
• Lower scores in the Mini-Mental State Examination test. (Sochocka, Curr Alzheimer Res, 2017).
• Decreased word fluency test scores (Naorungroj, J Am Dent Ass, 2016)
• And after 10 years of gum inflammation, a 70% greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease. (Chang-Kai Chen, Alzheimers Res Ther, 2017).
Fortunately, the solution to preventing gingivitis is pretty darn easy:
1. Avoid eating sugar and refined processed foods that feed the bacteria that grow between your gums and teeth.
2. Brush your teeth twice per day.
3. Floss your teeth once per day.
4. Use a water pick once per day.
5. See your dental hygienist 2-4 times per year to help clean away plaque that forms between your teeth and gums.
Your smile will be brighter and whiter, your breath fresher, and taking care of your teeth and gums will help you to feel better and prevent both heart disease and memory loss.
I wish you the best of health!
Steven Masley, MD, FAHA, FACN, FAAFP, CNS
PS: If you found this blog helpful, or you think a friend or family member would benefit from this information, please forward this blog to them.
Thank you for sharing this very important information. I have read your book and try to fallow your way of eating
Thanks for the information.
I already have moderate to severe gum recession. Other than good oral hygiene are there steps to take to reverse this in any way? And what do you think about pinhole surgery? Thank you Dr. Masley!
I’d discuss this with your dentist. Hopefully they are on Robyn’s list of holistic dentists.
Steven Masley, MD
Thank you dr
Question What is a water pick
Also called a water flosser. Google the term water pick, and you’ll see several examples. I am amazed how well my water pick works, even after I have brushed and flossed my teeth.
Steven Masley, MD
I have 4 impacted (below the gum line) wisdom teeth which are now breaking down and inflamed. I went to see an oral surgeon and he said at my age, my jaws are like concrete and the nerve passes immediately below the tooth, making me a prime candidate for nerve damage and it’s consequences. I have been taking antibiotics which I never do but it comes back within a week of stopping them. Don’t know what to do.
Recurrent antibiotic use is terrible for your gut and overall health. You need to find a solution and I’d recommend that you ask your own dentist (perhaps your personal physician too) and get a second opinion from another oral surgeon. Hopefully you are taking a high quality probiotic supplement for some support in the meantime. Giving direct medical advice to someone I don’t know is generally not good care, so although I appreciate the seriousness of your situation, you’ll have to rely upon advice from someone who can evaluate you in person. Good luck.
Steven Masley, MD
who can afford to see the dentist 2-4 times a year unless you go to a dental hygiene teaching collage
Good point. I meant to say see your dental hygienist 2-4 times per year for a cleaning, the better care you take of your teeth the less you need to go, but I recommend everyone see their dental hygienist at least 2 times per year. If the dental hygienist gives you the all clear, I’m ok with you seeing your dentist once per year.
Steven Masley, MD
Elizabeth H Lee, DDS
Thank You Dr. Masley & Team. This information is absolutely VITAL. I have avoided dental visits for a long time, due to many bad experiences. However, you broke it down so effectively, that I am going to try and overcome my aversion to the dentist. This is big for me. I thank you for your continued support and contributions to better health for all, especially me. Sincerely, Jesse B. Mitchell II