Many dentists advertise that they can help you achieve an appealing smile – but there’s much you can do to ensure that your oral health is something to smile about.
Nutritional supplements go a long way to preserving gum tissue, as well as teeth (including roots).
First, let’s clarify gum disease. Gingivitis is the first of four stages that leads to gum disease; and three out of four people have it. You can tell you have it when your gums bleed when you brush, and your gums are a bit inflamed. The second and third stages, as determined by your dentist via X-rays, is loss of bone supporting the teeth, and receding of gum tissue. In stage 3, some teeth may loosen. Stage 4 is advanced periodontitis, which is the most severe. People who do not visit the dentist regularly or practice good oral hygiene tend to develop all four stages.
Unattended gingivitis leads to periodontitis; gingivitis is the buildup of plaque. Biofilm is also a culprit. According to one source, “We all have biofilm, even the most avid brushers, flossers and rinsers, because the sticky film clings to nearly any surface that is wet (it happens in nature, too: think slippery rocks, or the slick hull of a boat). If you regularly brush, floss and rinse, you can minimize the biofilm. But when brushing, flossing and rinsing habits are lacking, the biofilm can build and develop into dental plaque that you can see with the naked eye (it is typically pale yellow in color). The thicker biofilm can irritate gums and spur the body’s inflammatory response.”
Beyond Good Hygiene
As someone who prioritizes good health habits, you likely brush and floss and visit the dentist. Being attentive to nutrition and specific supplementation can improve your oral health – because oral health is now clearly linked to heart health and immune health through inflammation. Excess amounts of bad bacteria in the mouth are implicated in the development of endocarditis (infection of the inner lining of the hart chambers or valves), as well as cardiovascular disease.
A multi-center cohort study of one million people yielded interesting insight into the relationships between oral health and coronary heart disease in non-smokers showed a “moderate, positive association between tooth loss and coronary heart disease” in men and women.
In her presentation, “Oral Health and Microbiome,” dentist Bonnie Feldman DDS, explained that there are more than 700 species of bacteria living in what she called oral subhabitats – tongue, gums, teeth, saliva/salivary glands, and even ear, nose and throat. The bacteria also live with viruses, eukaryotes, and fungi. Dr. Feldman added, “what happens in the mouth, does not stay in the mouth. People with gum disease are also more likely to have heart disease and to have a higher risk of stroke; periodontal disease may also be associated with autoimmune diseases.”
Indeed, pointed out researchers in a review, chronic dysbiosis (microbiome imbalance) can cause cavities because cariogenic pathogens (bad bacteria) run roughshod over and dominate the good bacteria.
Vitamins for Oral Health
Several common nutrients are, according to one review, “critical for the growth, development, maintenance, and repair of healthy dentition and oral tissues.” Deficiencies in folate and other B complex vitamins; vitamins A, C, and D and of course, calcium, are of concern as insufficient supply of these nutrients impact nearly all structural components of the oral cavity, and can accelerate development of caries (cavities) and poor dental mineralization.
Vitamin D in particular has received a lot of attention for its role in oral health. Researchers in one study looked at the relationship between vitamin D in cases of periodontitis and coronary heart disease, and to determine if there was a causative relationship. The cross-sectional study evaluated vitamin D levels in 46 people with periodontitis, 45 with CHD, 45 with both periodontitis and CHD, and 43 healthy individuals, and found that those with periodontitis and CHD had the lowest amounts of serum vitamin D and the presence of periodontitis negatively influenced vitamin D.
According to Dr. Feldman, gum disease is essentially a microbiome imbalance, itself characterized by among other things, inadequate plaque control and inadequate oral hygiene.
In a comprehensive review, the authors suggested that there were three main effects of probiotics in the oral cavity: modulation of the host inflammatory response, direct effects against pathogenic bacteria, and indirect effects against pathogenic bacteria.
Researchers in another review looked at the concept of bacteriotherapy, an emerging field in dentistry, whereby probiotics as dietary supplements were recommended by dentists to promote oral health. “This approach has shown promising results in the oral cavity with respect to control of chronic diseases such as dental caries, periodontitis, and recurring problems such as halitosis and candidal infections,” the authors concluded.
Oral candidiasis can be reduced by probiotics, according to a review, noting that two studies reported moderate improvements in oral candidiasis with probiotic consumption: one in 42 participants who took a combination of Lactobacillus casei and Bifidobacterium breve, and another in 59 denture wearers who took a combination of Lactobacillus rhamnosus HS111, Lactobacillus acidophilus HS101, and Bifidobacterium bifidum.
Probiotics can also help fight accelerated development of cavities – one major culprit is the nefarious bacteria Streptococcus mutans, which builds on teeth. One review cited numerous studies of probiotic strains and species that were shown to inhibit S. mutans; among the probiotics supplemented were Lactobacillus plantarum, L. paracasei, L. rhamnosus GG, L. acidophilus La5, L. reuteri, L. casei and Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. Lactis DN-173010, and Bifidobacterium lactis Bb-12.
The authors write that in the case of overpowering S. mutans, “probiotics work by various mechanisms in the oral cavity, including the production of antibacterial agents against oral pathogens such as hydrogen peroxide organic acids and bacteriocins. Probiotics compete with pathogenic agents for adhesion to the mucosa and teeth and prevent the attachment and invasion of pathogenic bacteria. Probiotics can alter the environment of the oral environment, such as a severe decrease in pH so that caries are not able to survive in the highly acidic environment.”
Probiotics are indeed multi-tasking supplements, much like the aforementioned vitamin D. Both are highly recommended to support oral health. Daily oral hygiene, and limited consumption of refined sugars (treats and alcohol), combined with vitamin D and probiotics will help your dentist help you achieve that incandescent healthy smile – a smile that may be encouraged by knowing your oral health is outstanding.