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A Vitamin a Day May Keep the Dentist Away?
By Debra Casey, RDH
Yes, we are noticing that a healthier immune system can mean healthier pink gums. Don’t get me wrong; we all need regular dental checkups. Daily flossing and brushing are a must. Studies are showing that nutritional supplementation increases our ability to ward off gingivitis and periodontitis. Even more interesting, is that research is showing that periodontal disease contributes to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pneumonia, chronic inflammatory diseases of aging, and as Dr. Ladd McNamara (who practiced for years as a board certified ob/gyn) informed me, EVEN low birth weight and premature labor! Now, if that doesn't get you to think about better oral hygiene, I don't know what will.
I have been able to model for exercise equipment and clothing lines well into my fifties (as you can see by this photo taken a year or so ago) due to a healthy diet and exercise regimen. And, as mentioned above, I have been a dental hygienist for over 25 years in Texas and then in San Diego, California. Health and fitness have long been interests of mine. However, the importance and impact of nutritional supplementation was not a priority to me or in my practice until recently.
In 2005 I heard Dr. Ladd McNamara speak about the benefits of quality nutritional supplements, and the incredible impact that they have in maintaining health if properly balanced and used on a daily basis for life. He cited medical studies and talked about the experiences he had in his medical practice. He spoke with such passion and credibility, that soon I started on the full program he recommended. It wasn’t long before I noticed I had more energy, stamina, less migraines, and absolutely no arthritic pain in my hands than ever before. Being a dental hygienist that made a huge difference working in people's mouths all day! I was never promised I would notice any of this, … I just noticed the changes in my health. I had taken vitamins before, but the difference with these supplements was real and dramatic.
For more than 10 years, research has shown a link between oral health and systemic health. This has caused the medical and dental professions to sit up and take notice. There is a correlation between high inflammatory bacterial levels in oral tissue and the risk for heart disease, stroke, Type II diabetes, and most other chronic inflammatory diseases of aging.
First of all, only about 25% of people brush their teeth after each meal. Fifty percent of people brush their teeth twice a day, and the rest brush their teeth once a day or less. Is it any wonder that up to 75% of Americans are affected by some degree of gingivitis and periodontitis from bacterial build up? Of consequence, bacteria from inflamed gums easily get into the blood stream and systemic inflammation and disease begin. Chronic inflammation that begins in the mouth and seeds the blood stream has been linked to cancer, heart disease, stroke, and Type II diabetes. These reports are documented at major research institutions and universities.
C. Everett Koop, M.D., the former Surgeon General of the United States, said, "You're not healthy unless you have good oral health."
The evidence for this connection is that the species of bacteria that causes periodontitis has been found in the atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries of the heart. People with periodontitis have elevated C reactive protein, an inflammatory marker associated oxidative damage, which is the major cause of atherosclerotic heart disease and stroke (refer to the book, "The Cholesterol Conspiracy" by Ladd McNamara, M.D., http://cholesterolconpiracy.blogspot.com).
As mentioned, periodontal disease is a risk factor for developing Type II diabetes, and worsening Type II diabetes in those who have diabetes, or even insulin intolerance. Diabetics that don't control their blood sugar develop periodontal disease more often and more severely than diabetics who have better glycemic control. Studies have shown that diabetics who eliminate periodontal infection and inflammation have improved glycemic control suggesting that maintaining optimal oral hygiene is crucial in diabetics and those with insulin intolerance (as it should be for all of us).
What was new to me, was the information that Dr. Ladd McNamara, a former board certified ob/gyn (now retired) shared with me about the association between periodontal disease and preterm labor and low birth weight babies. Actually, it makes sense, since again the bacteria that seeds the inflamed gums gets into the blood stream and makes its way throughout the body, including the pregnant uterus. Infections in the uterus are a well-known cause for preterm labor and delivery.
In order to control oral bacterial levels, we have been armed with a myriad of treatments: professional dental procedures, antibiotics, antibacterial mouthwashes, and home care tools. In the company we're associated with, we even have a Natural Toothpaste with antioxidants and enzymes that are particularly good at not allowing the bacteria to "stick" to the teeth and gums in the first place, which is the initiating step in periodontal plaque build up (see my blog where I talk about this: http://trueoralhealth.blogspot.com).
In recent years, studies have shown that high serum levels of antioxidants such as vitamin C, E, beta carotene, and CoQ10 ward off bacteria and reduce inflammation. However, there are other antioxidants with powerful anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activities, such as grape seed extract and turmeric extract that are proving to be more powerful in protecting our health, especially if used in combination with the other nutrients. Anti-inflammatory effects of the gums and throughout the body are occurring in part due to the reduction of bacteria and oxidation. These properties of the supplements should NOT be ignored, as the potency and their power in maintaining healthy gums, as well as healthy hearts, glycemic control, and healthy immune systems all add up to maintaining and promoting lifelong health. Supplements used in conjunction with our Natural Toothpaste work synergistically to help protect and heal damaged tissue in the mouth and throughout the body. My advice would be to use all these at least twice a day, ...if not after each meal.
Gum disease (periodontitis) is an overall systemic issue that is preventable and treatable through:
Professional Dental Care
Proper Oral Hygiene (including the Natural Toothpaste)
Proper Nutritional Supplementation
In summary, it is clear that nutritional supplementation with pharmaceutical-grade products and our Natural Toothpaste is a wise adjunct to supporting oral health. Thus, if your dentist or dental hygienist starts talking to you about Natural Toothpaste and broad spectrum, pharmaceutical grade supplements to improve your oral hygiene and your overall health, it may be time to sit up, …spit, AND listen!
Please check out my corollary BLOG about TRUE ORAL HEALTH: http://trueoralhealth.blogspot.com
Don't forget to check out Dr. Ladd McNamara's BLOG: http://laddmcnamara.blogspot.com