The Silent Epidemic The Works – Periodontal

It is estimated that 75% or more of the population has periodontal disease to some extent. It smells just as bad by its other name – pyorrhea! It is the main reason by far for most adults losing their natural teeth.

Periodontal disease is said to exist when there is infection in the gums and the bone surrounding the teeth. The signs and symptoms of periodontal disease include

  • Bleeding from the gums
  • Swelling in the gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Gum abscesses (also present with abscessed teeth)
  • Build-up of tartar (calculus)
  • Widespread buildup of plaque around and between the teeth.

Periodontal disease can be present around all the teeth or just a few.


Two main reasons – Physical and Nutritional

Physical: The main initiating factor in periodontal disease is the irritation caused to the gums by the bacteria in the plaque. If the teeth can be made completely plaque-free at least once every 24 hours, then no damage will result.

The degree of periodontal disease present is related to the effectiveness of each person’s oral hygiene habits.

After plaque is left in the mouth for some time, it hardens and becomes tartar (calculus). If there is no plaque, there can be no calculus. Calculus is quite rough itself and irritates the gums and allows plaque to build up and collect more easily. Calculus can’t be brushed or flossed away – it has to be cleaned off by a dentist or hygienist.

The next aspect that is important is the condition of the dental treatment which people have had. If the restorations (fillings) are corroded, chipped, worn, have gaps between the fillings and the teeth, have expanded etc, then these areas form ideal nooks and crannies for plaque to collect. These areas are usually very difficult to clean as well which only makes things worse. If you floss and leave so much shredded floss hanging from your teeth that you begin to look like Father Xmas with his beard, then you should consider having your fillings replaced, or at the very least checked, to see if it is possible to smooth or reshape them. Nothing lasts forever and it is foolish to leave worn fillings in place as they can aggravate and diminish the health of your teeth and gums.

Another aspect to consider is an uneven bite which can stress teeth beyond their ability to cope. The result can be looseness of the teeth. This aspect is usually superimposed on some or all of the preceding conditions.

Nutritional: There are many factors involved here, but continuing studies show that lack of proper nutrition plays a very significant role in the continuation of periodontal disease and also affects how well periodontal health is maintained. Nutrition is important because it affects HOST RESISTANCE/SUSCEPTIBILITY.

Any food which enhances a person’s ability to resist infection and disease is a resistance factor. Any food or nutrient which diminishes a person’s ability to resist infection and disease is a susceptibility factor.

There are a number of vitamins and minerals which increase the host resistance and hence aid periodontal health.

Vitamin C: Promotes faster healing with better quality collagen. Has been shown that where the level of Vitamin C is high in relation to Vitamin A and Calcium, that there is significantly less plaque formed.

With high levels of Vitamin C, the gum tissues are stronger and less permeable to bacteria.

Zinc: Improves immune T-lymphocyte function allowing more effective recognition of and destruction of bacteria. Has also been shown in animal studies to reduce the amount of decay very significantly.

Protein: Is necessary for the development, maintenance and repair of all the components of body tissues, including the gums and the bone.

They are also important in enzyme systems which are involved in muscular contraction and nerve conduction.

Thirdly, they are essential components in most endocrine substances.

It is also well established that most defense mechanisms in the body are influenced by the protein state. Protein deficiency diminishes at least 4 areas.

1. Antibody production.
2. Leukocyte activity.
3. Non specific resistance against toxins.
4. Adrenocortical function.

It is fair to conclude that protein is important in periodontal health.

Too much protein, however can lead to excess bone loss. 60-75 grams a day is about right. Over 120 grams can be damaging.

Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorous: The breakdown of bone is controlled by dietary phosphorous and the formation of bone is controlled by dietary calcium. A balance needs to be kept otherwise the result is nett bone loss. Studies have shown that where there is a low Calcium, magnesium and high phosphorous diet, there is more bone resporption than where there is a high Calcium, magnesium and low phosphorous diet. Excess bone resorption has been stopped by changing to a low phosphorous, high Calcium, magnesium diet.

Vitamin A & D: very important in the stimulation of proper bone synthesis.

Trace minerals: along with Zinc, Chromium and Mangansese are known to promote proper management of blood sugar.

High Fibre: improves blood sugar management.

Some factors which increase host susceptibility and hence diminish periodontal health.

Smoking and alcohol: deplete vitamins and cause tissue damage. For example every cigarette will destroy 25-30 mgs of Vitamin C.

Sugar: refined sugar has been implicated in many health problems.

Periodontically, high sugar intake can lead to the following,

much increased decay
increased plaque formation
increased tooth mobility
decreased ability to cope with infection
vitamin and mineral imbalances.

Be aware that the bulk of sugar in your diets is hidden. For example, one slice of apple pie will have about 7-8 teaspoons of sugar. A 10 ounce glass of a malted milk shake will have about 5 teaspoons of sugar and a chocolate eclair will have about 7 teaspoons.

Now, nobody in their right minds would sit down and spoon 7, 8 or more teaspoons of sugar into their mouths but in fact when they have any of the above foods and countless others besides, that is exactly what they are doing.

Caffeine: Affects the body’s nervous system in such a way that the following takes place.

1. elevation of glucose triglycerides cholesterol

2. alteration of kidney function such that there is an increase in the excretion of minerals in the urine

3. increase in blood pressure within half an hour and an increase in the pulse rate.

Excess Red Meat: The ideal Calcium, to Phosphorous ratio is about 0.7 to 1.0. The phosphorous levels in red meat are such that the ratio of Phosphorous to Calcium is about 50 to 1. Not only that but, as a group in general we eat about 3 times as much meat as we did 40 years ago.

Processed foods: High in phosphorous.

Super carbonated drinks and soft drinks: These have very high phosphate levels in order to buffer the acidity of the carbonic acids.

The very high sugar levels are also a problem

Miscellaneous: High Aluminium levels can induce excess bone loss. So can allergy producing foods and excess dietary protein.


Physically: Most important is EFFECTIVE PLAQUE CONTROL:

1. correct brushing in an up and down motion so that the bristles sweep from the gums and between the teeth.

2. flossing to wipe clean the areas which the toothbrush cannot reach. Flossing is very important. If ever I was marooned on a desert island I would want a recording of Beethoven’s 4th piano concerto, my lady and lots of floss…not necessarily in that order!


4. make sure that your fillings/crowns are fitting smoothly within the teeth and that there are no uncleanable areas. If necessary, have them smoothed, reshaped or replaced.


1. Improve the Calcium, Magnesium/Phosphorous ratio.

2. Increase Vitamin C and Bioflavanoids.

3. Increase Dietary fibre.

4. Increase Zinc, Iron, Selenium, Manganese and Chromium.

5. Reduce allergy promoting foods.

6. Decrease smoking and alcohol intake.

7. Decrease exposure to, and increase elimination from the body of toxic elements…lead, Aluminium.

8. Reduce as much as possible, sugar intake. You may not be aware of it, but some of the popular breakfast Brans are in fact up to 30% or more, sugar!

9. Eliminate as much as possible all processed foods and white flour and white rice products.

So there you have it. If you would live life to the full, you will do it better and easier with your own natural teeth.

After all, if you really want to get your teeth into something,

Enamel beats plastic any day…OK.!

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