Your gums are made up of a firm connective tissue which attaches your teeth to the bones of your jaw. You might not think about them much, but your gums have several important functions. These include providing a seal around your teeth, which protects them from harmful bacteria, as well as holding your teeth firmly in place and absorbing shock, which enables you to bite and chew food.
What is gum disease?
When healthy, your gums should have a moist, pink appearance and shouldn’t cause you any pain or bleed when you brush. However, many of us are affected by gum disease, which ranges from mild (known as gingivitis) to more serious (known as periodontitis). According to the NHS, most adults in the UK are affected by gum disease to some degree.1
Gum disease is caused by a build-up of bacteria on the tooth’s surface, which causes plaque. Plaque is a sticky substance which traps acids and more bacteria on your teeth, which causes inflammation, bleeding and soreness at the gum line. If left untreated, plaque can harden into tartar, which also traps bacteria on your teeth and gums, but is harder to get rid of and likely to cause periodontitis. This is when the build-up of harmful bacteria and toxins in your mouth can slowly destroy the gum tissues surrounding the teeth. Periodontitis leads to receding gums, loose teeth and even tooth loss.
How can vitamin C
help keep your gums healthy?
Vitamin C is essential for the general health of your gums and having low levels of this vitamin has been linked with periodontitis, the most advanced stage of gum disease.2 While low vitamin C intake doesn’t cause periodontitis alone, it’s a major risk factor in developing it and having low vitamin C in your body makes the reversal of periodontitis very difficult.3
This is because vitamin C is needed for protein synthesis, such as the production of collagen. Collagen is responsible for the building of healthy tissues in the body, including gum tissue. So without a sufficient intake of vitamin C alongside the early signs of gum disease, it’s likely there will be a loss of collagen in the tooth-supporting tissues, causing the gums to recede and pockets to form around the teeth, thus loosening them and risking tooth loss.
Vitamin C is also a very potent antioxidant which can aid with the healing of wounds. Periodontitis is classed as a chronic infection caused by bacteria4 so vitamin C can help the body fight off the increased oxidative stress associated with infection.5
Is periodontitis the same as scurvy?
Scurvy is very rare in the UK these days but can occur as a result of a severe vitamin C deficiency, seriously affecting collagen production. Like periodontitis, scurvy also causes gum disease and tooth loss, but it’s different from periodontitis which is caused by bacteria.
Don’t worry too much if you’re displaying the early stages of gum disease as it’s not uncommon. The correct oral hygiene and vitamin C intake can help you bring your gums back to optimum health. Good sources of vitamin C include peppers, broccoli, kiwi fruit, orange and pineapple.
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
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