The Specialist

Nutrition and periodontal disease

Periodontal disease is considered a “chronic disease”.

A chronic disease means it cannot be prevented by vaccines or cured by medication, nor do they just disappear. They usually become progressively worse over time and tend to be painless until there is a major crisis. Common examples include diabetes, cancer, dementia, hypertension, stroke and periodontal disease.

The area of chronic inflammation is heavily researched by today’s scientists to find the common link to all of these degenerative diseases.

Periodontal disease is that disease which causes the loss of the supporting bone for the teeth, also known as pyorrhea (old term for gum disease). Periodontal disease robs the person of his or her teeth resulting in loss of mouth function, loss of facial support and discomfort during eating. Some symptoms include bleeding gums, loose teeth, receding or swollen gums, bad breath or a bad bite associated with partial dentures or shifting teeth.

As a periodontist, we focus our attention on controlling the build-up of bacterial plaque. We always say brush and floss your teeth. Some patients emphatically explain how they brush their teeth three to four times per day yet they still suffer from periodontal disease.

Today, we have conclusive evidence that link gum diseases to overall diseases. The body’s immune response to the plaque in your mouth results in chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation not only destroys the bone supporting your teeth, it also destroys the tissues and affect the organs of the entire body. Yes, that’s right, your entire body!

Are you ready for the worst of it?

While plaque is necessary to cause the onslaught of periodontal disease, along with chronic inflammation there is another factor that is worse – bad nutrition!

In fact, nutrition can play a positive or negative role, depending on how well or poorly you eat.

You already know that the bad foods are highly processed foods. Here is briefly why:

• High in sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

• Engineered for overconsumption.

Artificial ingredients:

• Create addictions to fast foods.

• High in refined carbohydrates.

• Low in important nutrients and fiber.

• High in trans fats.

A patient said to me the other day, “Well Doc, those bad foods cover everything. What else is there to eat?”

The short answer is whole foods and fresh water. Some examples include organic fruits, fresh vegetables, raw nuts and seeds.

I would recommend that before you brush and floss that you have an apple, eat some grapes, enjoy carrot sticks. Eat the good foods. They may save more than your teeth.

When we don’t have adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables, it limits our body’s ability to heal. The body depends on antioxidants, which get rid of free radicals in our system. Fruits and vegetables are superfoods and have antioxidants for our benefits. Free radicals are toxic byproducts of oxygen metabolism that damage living cells and tissues causing us to age and get disease. This process is called oxidative stress. Vitamins and minerals combat this and therefore are called anti-oxidants. The most potent free-radical generator in the body is cigarette smoking, followed by environmental pollution then charcoal and fried foods.

Examples of antioxidant nutrients include Vitamin A (B-carotene), Vitamin C, Vitamin E, glutathione and melatonin.

Some nutrients are required in large quantities – for example, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. High carbohydrate intake has been implicated in periodontal disease and dental caries (cavities). For example, a sugary diet encourages plaque formation and leads to dental decay. A strong link between obesity and periodontal disease has also been reported.

A number of reviews highlighting the link between nutrition and periodontal disease have been published in the last few years. Hence, the aim of this issue is to inform you of the relationship between nutrition and your periodontal health. Proper nutrition goes a long way in managing your periodontal disease while improving your treatment outcomes.

The natural consequence is the quality of your life and your well-being is vastly improved.

Next issue: Your gums: A predictor of heart disease

• Dr. Kendal V. O. Major is founder and CEO of Center for Specialized Dentistry, a comprehensive family dental practice operating in New Providence and Grand Bahama. He is the first Bahamian specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He is also a certified Fastbraces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue; he can be reached at telephone (242) 325-5165 or

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