More than three-quarters of American adults over age 35 get periodontal (gum) disease. While most people with gum disease have the less severe form, called gingivitis, between 5% and 15% have a much more serious type of gum disease known as periodontitis.
When people don’t practice proper dental hygiene, bacteria in the mouth forms plaque on the teeth. These bacteria may cause your gums to become inflamed, which results in red, swollen, or bleeding gums. For many people with gingivitis, this inflammation is not painful. If you catch gingivitis early, it can be reversed and healed with proper oral hygiene. But left untreated, gingivitis can worsen and ultimately lead to tooth loss.
Plaque is the primary cause of gum disease. However, other factors can contribute to periodontal disease, including:
- Hormonal changes, such as those occurring during pregnancy, puberty, menopause, and monthly menstruation, make gums more sensitive, which makes it easier for gingivitis to develop.
- Illnesses may affect the condition of your gums. This includes diseases such as cancer or HIV that interfere with the immune system. Because diabetes affects the body’s ability to use blood sugar, patients with this disease are at higher risk of developing infections, including periodontal disease and cavities.
- Medications can affect oral health, because some lessen the flow of saliva, which has a protective effect on teeth and gums. Some drugs, such as the anticonvulsant medication Dilantin and the anti-angina drug Procardia and Adalat, can cause abnormal growth of gum tissue.
- Bad habits such as smoking make it harder for gum tissue to repair itself.
- Poor oral hygiene habits such as not brushing and flossing on a daily basis, make it easier for gingivitis to develop.
- Family history of dental disease can be a contributing factor for the development of gingivitis.
Recently, researchers have started looking at natural antibacterial compounds to treat gum disease. Daniel Grenier and colleagues wanted to see if blueberry polyphenols, which work against foodborne pathogens, could also help fight Fusobacterium nucleatum, one of the main species of bacteria associated with periodontitis.
In the lab, the researchers tested extracts from the wild lowbush blueberry,Vaccinium angustifolium Ait., against F. nucleatum. The polyphenol-rich extracts successfully inhibited the growth of F. nucleatum, as well as its ability to form biofilms. It also blocked a molecular pathway involved in inflammation, a key part of gum disease. The researchers say they’re developing an oral device that could slowly release the extract after deep cleaning to help treat periodontitis. This extract might also help reduce antibiotic use and with the growing concerns about antibiotic resistance, this is no small thing!
Researchers have also known for some time that blueberries help slow the aging process so it’s no surprise that blueberries can help prevent gum disease.
This new and simple extract should soon be available to Dentists, but in the meantime, you might want to eat more blueberries!
Journal Of Agricultural And Food Chemistry: Wild Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium Ait.) Polyphenols Target Fusobacterium nucleatum and the Host Inflammatory Response: Potential Innovative Molecules for Treating Periodontal Diseases
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