What Is Dental Inflammation?
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. (The second most common form is caused by blood clots from ministrokes, a cardiovascular problem.) Alzheimer’s is characterized by a serious impairment and worsening of memory, plus a decline in at least one other cognitive function, such as in perception or language skills. As Alzheimer’s progresses, it leads to a loss of motor skills and reduced independence in daily activities, such as grooming and going to the there is a good chance that you have gingivitis. Periodontitis describes inflammation that is much deeper and involves the supporting bone of the teeth, and it is often missed in casual examinations. Periodontitis erodes the bone forming teeth. TMJ syndrome is generally recognized as a misalignment of the temporomandibular joint, located near the ears, which hinges the jawbone to the skull. This misalignment generates free radicals, which can fuel inflammation.
Each of these disorders has a different cause. Gingivitis results in large part from poor dental hygiene, which allows plaque-causing bacteria to proliferate and attack the gums. Periodontitis is associated with a different type of bacteria, but it is also often an age-related condition because some bone loss increases with age. TMJ syndrome is generally considered a consequence of malocclusion (crooked teeth). However, educator and author Malcolm Riley, D.D.S., of Tucson, Arizona, believes that TMJ syndrome is caused largely by stress, which leads to TMJ muscular spasms and pain.
How Common Is Dental Inflammation?
Dental caries (cavities) and periodontitis affect nearly every person at some point in life. For example, three out of four people develop some degree of gum disease by age thirty-five. The American Dental Association estimates that 10 million people in the United States might suffer from some degree of TMJ disease.
Nutrients That Can Help
For long-term improvements in dental health, it is essential that you start with diet. Nearly everyone is taught that sugar-laden foods feed the bacteria that cause cavities. It is not as well known that sugary foods increase gingival inflammation. Cutting consumption of sugary foods and soft drinks reduces gingivitis, just as increased intake of protein and lower consumption of refined carbohydrates, combined with a multivitamin/ multimineral supplement, reduce gingivitis.
Vitamin C intake also is important. In one study researchers found that intake of 65 mg of vitamin C daily eased gingival inflammation and bleeding, compared to when subjects received only 5 mg daily. However, much larger dosages (605 mg daily) led to even greater improvements in gingivitis and bleeding.
Low vitamin C intake is related to larger periodontal “pockets” (spaces around teeth where bone has been lost). While there are strong parallels between symptoms of gingivitis and periodontitis and the dental ramifications of scurvy (an extreme life-threatening deficiency of vitamin C), there also are major differences. In scurvy, bleeding from the gums is common, and vitamin C can reduce it. However, scurvy does not lead to the formation of fibrous scar tissue deep inside the gums, a sign of periodontitis. In addition, lower levels of inflammation are found in periodontitis than in scurvy.
Two other nutrients play key roles in controlling dental inflammation. In an animal study, vitamin E supplements reduced bone loss, very likely because it reduced inflammation. In several small human trials topical application of coenzyme Q10, a vitaminlike nutrient, greatly improved periodontitis. To achieve the same benefits, break a soft gelatin capsule of CoQ10 (30 to 100 mg), massage its contents into the gums, and swallow the remainder.
What Else Might Help?
Although there has not been any research on the protective roles of omega-3 fish oils or gamma-linolenic acid in dental inflammation, supplements would likely have benefits. In addition, zinc supplements might promote healing of injured tissues. Calcium and magnesium might help maintain normal bone, and one study has found that glucosamine and chrondoitin reduce symptoms of TMJ disease when the joint is affected.
None of this information should negate the value of oral hygiene, but the best hygiene cannot make up for a poor diet and insufficient anti-inflammatory nutrients. Daily flossing and brushing along with periodic professional cleanings should be part of the best approach to dental health.