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Gum Disease: How to Avoid Being Another Statistic

01/20/2011 08:50 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

An astonishing 75-95 percent of all adults have some type of gum disease (periodontitis or gingivitis) and some of them might not even know they have it! Due to the prominence of gum disease, there have been two recent findings that may help us treat or avoid it.

A drug used to treat osteoporosis may help reverse inflammatory gums and teeth. In a post on intelihealth.com, "The News Review" from Harvard Medical School has released an article stating that a drug call teriparatide (Forteo) may actually help bone repair for those suffering from periodontitis.

What is periodontitis? Well, most of us know its precursor, gingivitis. Gingivitis symptoms include red, swollen gums that bleed easily.

Periodontitis is when the gum disease has been left untreated as gingivitis and has become more severe. Periodontitis can lead to bone loss under teeth as well as teeth themselves. Symptoms of periodontitis include puss between teeth and gums, gums pulling away from teeth and permanent teeth that are becoming loose.

Teriparatide is currently used to help build bone in people suffering from osteoporosis. According to intelihealth.com, "It [teriparatide] actually stimulates new bone formation. But doctors also know that this drug, if given for more than two years, might increase the risk of developing bone tumors." Thus, it is not the most commonly prescribed drug to help with osteoporosis.

However, in terms of people with periodontitis, teriparatide might really help, as it "did seem to help stimulate bone growth in the mouth."

There are plans for more testing with periodontitis sufferers. As intelihealth.com states, "We clearly need larger studies of this drug in the treatment of periodontitis. I think we also will see trials of this drug in the treatment of osteonecrosis of the jaw and of other areas of bone."

While there may be a new treatment for periodontitis on the horizon, the best thing you can do is to not let the disease get to this stage. If you notice that your gums are red or bleeding, the best thing to do is to maintain a health oral care regimen: brush, floss and rinse at least two times per day. A healthy diet can also aid in beating gingivitis. And make sure you see your dentist regularly. He or she can always offer the best course of treatment for any dental issue.

There are products out there specifically designed to treat your gums and keep them healthy, so that may be something worth trying out. Remember, if you do have gingivitis, it is completely reversible. Just put the time and love into taking care of your mouth -- after all, it's the only one you've got.

Polyunsaturated Fats May Help Gum Disease
It has long been reported that fish oil is good for you. Mothers have been forcing their kids to drink cod liver oil for generations, but why? It can help with inflammatory conditions like heart disease and if often included in vitamin supplements. The reason for this is that fish oil is very rich in polyunsaturated fats. Other foods rich in these fats include nuts, peanut butter and fattier fish such as salmon.

So mom wasn't just trying to torture you, despite what you may have thought. She actually was right, (but isn't she usually?) fish oil is good for you. Now there is another benefit to polyunsaturated fats. A study published on WebMD by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that "people whose diets were rich in PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) were as much as 30 percent less likely to have gum disease than those who ate little or none of this type of fat."

Allheadlinenews.com reports a similar finding from Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health. "Data from 9,000 adults from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey" that had received dental examinations were studied. Findings showed that there was "about a 20 percent reduction in gum disease in participants who consumed the largest amount of polyunsaturated fats. Perhaps will we see fish oil used as a treatment for periodontitis in the near future, but nothing is in the works as of yet.

This new finding is very important, as gum disease is the number one cause of tooth loss. Periodontitis is the second stage of gum disease and is difficult to treat. It often requires treatment by a dentist. It is an inflammatory disease, which is why polyunsaturated fats may help treat it.

The first stage of gum disease is gingivitis and is completely reversible. Symptoms include swollen red gums that bleed easily and bad breath. It is caused by volatile sulfur compounds present around the gum tissue.

What is the best way to treat gingivitis and periodontitis? Prevent it. Make regular appointments to visit the dentist, brush and floss regularly and use an oral rinse daily. If your gums are especially sensitive, try using products that specifically target gum treatment. And as the new studies have shown, diet is also important. Eat healthy, drink eight glasses of water a day and try to limit smoking and alcohol intake.

Try eating foods rich in polyunsaturated fats. If fish and nuts aren't your thing, there are fish oil supplements that are available. And next time you are arguing with your mother, remember, she was right about that cod liver oil being good for you after all.

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