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Calcium and Vitamin C Nourish Healthy Teeth and Gums

Chicago IL, 24 February 2004
Source: American Academy of Periodontology

At this time of year, people are either benefiting from their New Year's resolution to eat correctly or in need of encouragement. Since Nutrition Month Awareness is in March, it's a good time to restart the program. And, eating correctly not only reduces risks of diabetes and heart disease, it benefits oral health as well.

"A diet low in important nutrients can make it harder for the body's immune system to fight off infection," said Michael P. Rethman, DDS, MS, and president of the American Academy of Periodontology. "Periodontitis is a bacterial infection that destroys the tissues and bone that support the teeth, consequently a well-balanced diet may benefit oral health."

A study that appeared in the Journal of Periodontology found that men and women who have calcium intakes of fewer than 500 milligrams, or about half the recommended dietary allowance, were almost twice as likely to have periodontal diseases as measured by the loss of attachment of the gums from the teeth. This association was particularly evident for young adults in their 20s and 30s.

"The relationship between calcium intake and periodontal diseases may be due to calcium's role in building density in the alveolar bone that supports the teeth," said Rethman. "Calcium is necessary for healthy bones, teeth, muscle contractions and other functions."

Research has also shown that patients who consumed less than the recommended 60 mg per day of vitamin C (about one orange) were at nearly one-and-a-half times the risk of developing severe gingivitis as those who consumed three times the RDA (more than 180 mg). Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal diseases, and it causes the gums to become red, swell and bleed easily.

"The relationship between vitamin C and periodontal disease may be due to vitamin C's role in maintaining and repairing healthy connective tissue along with its antioxidant properties," said Rethman.

Dr. P. Rory O'Neill, DMD, and private practitioner in North Andover, MA, encourages his patients with diabetes to keep their blood glucose levels under control because uncontrolled diabetes increases their risks of periodontal disease. "It is important for patients with diabetes to reduce cholesterol and serum triglyceride levels through diet and exercise. Research shows increased serum triglyceride levels in uncontrolled diabetics seems to be related to greater attachment loss and probing depths," said O'Neill. "I also recommend patients limit their intake of fruit juice because juices are high in sugars, and the acid could lead to abrasion and possibly gum recession."

Other nutritional recommendations to help keep you smiling include:

  • Drinking lots of water. Keeping your mouth moist is important in warding off tooth decay and periodontal diseases because it washes away food and neutralizes plaque.

  • Brushing and flossing after eating sticky foods such as raisins, fruit rolls or candy.

The American Academy of Periodontology is a 7,900-member association of dental professionals specializing in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease affecting the gums and supporting structures of the teeth and in the placement and maintenance of dental implants. Periodontics is one of nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association.


American Academy of Periodontology (www.perio.org).end-of-story


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