How can I protect against periodontitis?

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The best vitamins, herbs, and self-care strategies to keep your teeth and gums infection-free.

Periodontist
We all have plaque, made up of hundreds of bacteria. Within plaque, there are certain bacteria groups that, when not removed, cause the breakdown of tissue. As with an acute infection, the tissue may become swollen, red, and inflamed. In the process of your body fighting the bacteria, the bone dissolves and the gums separate from the teeth, causing pockets in which bacteria thrive. If the condition goes untreated for a longtime, periodontitis can cause tooth loss.

Procedures called scaling and root "planing" remove tartar, toxins, and bacteria from the teeth and their roots. If the bacteria are eliminated and you practice good oral hygiene — with brushing and flossing — the tissues will heal. You also need to visit your dentist regularly to remove all plaque and tartar. In severe cases, periodontitis can require the use of antibiotics.

— Gordon Douglass, D.D.S.,
spokesman for the American Academy
of Periodontology
Dietitian

Sugar- and carbohydrate-laden foods may increase the risk of periodontitis, since the condition begins with plaque formed by sugars interacting with bacteria. Limit the amount and frequency of sugary foods that stick to teeth, such as chewy candies. If you do eat carbohydrate-packed foods that get stuck in your teeth, be sure to brush right away. Drinking plenty of water is also important, as dehydration and dry mouth increase risk.

To treat and prevent periodontitis, eat a balanced diet that includes whole-grain carbohydrates, plant-based fats, lean proteins, dairy or vitamin D-rich dairy alternatives, fruits, and vegetables. Vitamins C, D, E, and omega-3 fatty acids increase bone strength, while calcium and vitamin D aid in bone and tooth retention.

— Cynthia Sass, R.D., American Dietetic
Association spokeswoman and co-author
of Your Diet Is Driving Me Crazy:
When Food Conflicts Get in the Way
of Your Love Life
Naturopath

Herbs used in the management of periodontal disease are typically taken in the form of a toothpaste or mouthwash. The most effective products are those that contain anti-microbial extracts from bloodroot, myrrh, and thyme. Toothpastes and mouthwashes made with chamomile, echinacea, sage, and peppermint may also improve gum health. (Try Natural Antiplaque Toothpaste With Propolis & Myrrh from Tom's of Maine.)

The gums of patients with periodontal disease have been found to be deficient in coenzyme Q10, so taking CoQ10 supplements or applying a topical CoQ10 gel can be helpful, Xylitol, a natural alcohol sugar, helps reduce tooth decay by decreasing the number of bacteria in the mouth. A typical dose is 4 to 5 grams per day, which is four to five pieces of xylitol-containing gum for most brands.

— Joshua Levitt, N.D., vice president
of the Connecticut Naturopathic
Physicians Association

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