Published on March 18, 2023

Plus 10 things you probably didn’t know about Periodontal Disease, featured today for World Oral Health Day

Key Points

  • Periodontitis is a common gum disease that affects 50-70% of American adults and can lead to tooth loss
  • The health of the gums can affect overall health, with studies linking it to chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and even prenatal outcomes
  • Measuring levels of CRP, omega-3s, magnesium and vitamin D may give additional insight to how preventing and healing periodontal disease could be addressed for each individual

Periodontitis is a common, severe gum infection that can lead to tooth loss, with more mild symptoms including swollen, red, and tender gums. Research has also linked periodontitis to overall health and other systemic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, infective endocarditis, cancer, and prenatal disease.

The video “10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Periodontal Disease” by Dr. Joseph Nemeth, gives some interesting insights about periodontitis, which are summarized below.

Watch the Video

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Periodontal Disease

#1 50% of all adults in America have periodontal disease, and 70% of adults over 70 years of age have periodontal disease

#2 80% of dogs have some form of periodontal disease by 3 years old – and you can get it from your dog!

#3 Most people don’t know that they have periodontal disease, since it often presents with no symptoms

#4 Gum disease can affect your entire body

#5 Alzheimer’s disease has been strongly linked to gum disease, as has diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and various cancers

#6 Gum disease can affect your unborn baby, with research linking periodontal disease to lower birth weight, preterm birth, and pregnancy tumors in the mouth

#7 Gum recession is a form of periodontal disease; when you lose gum, you lose bone

#8 Periodontitis is transmissible; you can get it from your partner or your pets! If your spouse has gum disease you have a higher chance of having it too.

#9 It can be caused by some of the same bacteria that cause STDs

#10 It is a common cause of bad breath…

4 Measurements to Pay Attention to for Periodontal Disease Prevention

C-Reactive Protein (CRP)

High CRP levels could be indicative of periodontal disease. In fact, many studies looking at the relationship between periodontitis and CRP levels have found elevated CRP in those with chronic periodontitis. After reviewing the evidence, Bansal et al. concluded that “chronic periodontitis results in higher systemic levels of CRP” that could also result in increased risk of atherosclerotic inflammation and cardiovascular events.

Normal CRP levels are below 3.0 mg/L, with CRP levels above 10 mg/L indicative of acute inflammation or bacterial infection. Known as an ‘acute-phase’ marker of inflammation, CRP is produced in response to many forms of injury, inflammation and tissue damage. An increase in CRP levels can even indicate hidden disease that has not yet been diagnosed.

The CRP test blood spot test offered by GrassrootsHealth uses a high sensitivity assay, hs-CRP where “hs” means high sensitivity, to detect small elevations in CRP. You can measure your hs-CRP as part of your participation in the D*action project.

Omega-3s Help Prevent and Improve Measures of Periodontitis

Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their anti-inflammatory effects, and have been shown to help reduce diseases related to chronic inflammation, including periodontitis. A systematic review by Chatterjee et al. analyzed the effects of the omega-3 fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentanoic acid (EPA), on measures of periodontitis. The analysis looked at 8 separate studies that assessed pocket depth (PD, or the space between the gum and where the tooth attaches), clinical attachment level (CAL, another measure of gum attachment to the tooth), gingival index (GI, the amount of bleeding on gentle probing) and/or plaque index (PI, the amount of dental plaque visible) at 3 months and at 6 months of supplementation.

At 3 months, there was a significant effect of omega-3 supplementation on CAL and PD, with continued positive effects at 6 months. Several studies also found a significant improvement in GI at 6 months, especially when omega-3 supplements were given in combination with aspirin.

Also seen among the studies was

  • a preventive effect of higher EPA and DHA serum levels on periodontal disease progression
  • lower levels of inflammation among those taking omega-3 fatty acids, especially among those also taking aspirin
  • improved periodontal health with long-term ingestion of omega-3 fatty acids

The authors conclude that “the use of omega-3 fatty acid supplements seems to have a positive effect on periodontal wound healing, especially in regards to the measurements for the attachment of the gums to the tooth.” Measuring your Omega-3 Index is one way you can make sure you’re getting enough of these important essential fatty acids.

Magnesium Deficiency Linked to Increased Risk of Periodontitis

Magnesium has several roles in regulating the inflammatory and immune responses, and a lack of magnesium has been linked to increased risk of chronic diseases including diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and more.

Using NHANES data from 2013-2014, Li et al. looked at the correlation between magnesium intake (from diet and supplements) and periodontitis among 3,028 adults ages 30 years or older. The study found a 31% significantly decreased risk of periodontitis among those in the highest magnesium intake group compared to the lowest, along with a negative association between magnesium intake and periodontitis among all models of analysis (p<0.05). These findings led the authors to conclude that “dietary magnesium deficiency increases the prevalence of periodontitis.”

Up to 60% of the US population is estimated to be deficient in magnesium. Deficient magnesium levels can be due to insufficient magnesium in the diet, as well as problems with kidney function, alcoholism, and the use of diuretics and proton pump inhibitors.

The dried blood spot magnesium test offered as part of the D*action project measures the amount of magnesium within whole blood, and is a better indicator of magnesium status than the serum magnesium test.

Vitamin D and Periodontal Disease

Vitamin D is another important factor for periodontal disease risk. A paper by Jagelavičienė et al. found that the risk of gingivitis and chronic periodontitis decreased with sufficient intake of vitamin D, likely due to its roles in:

  • immunomodulation
  • anti-inflammation
  • antiproliferative effects
  • cell apoptosis
  • bone metabolism
  • alveolar bone resorption
  • prevention of tooth loss
  • increased antibacterial defenses of gingival epithelial cells
  • decreased gingival inflammation

In addition, vitamin D was found to improve postoperative wound healing after periodontal surgery and is an important supplement used as prophylaxis in periodontology.

Measure Your Levels of the Above Today!

Having and maintaining healthy vitamin D and other nutrient levels can help improve your health now and for your future. Choose which to measure, such as your vitamin D, omega-3s, and essential minerals including magnesium and zinc, by creating your custom home test kit today. Take steps to improve the status of each of these measurements to benefit your overall health. You can also track your own intakes, symptoms and results to see what works best for YOU.

Enroll and test your levels today, learn what steps to take to improve your status of vitamin D (see below) and other nutrients and blood markers, and take action! By enrolling in the GrassrootsHealth projects, you are not only contributing valuable information to everyone, you are also gaining knowledge about how you could improve your own health through measuring and tracking your nutrient status, and educating yourself on how to improve it.

How Can You Use this Information for YOUR Health?

Having and maintaining healthy vitamin D and other nutrient levels can help improve your health now and for your future. Measuring is the only way to make sure you are getting enough!

STEP 1 Order your at-home blood spot test kit to measure vitamin D and other nutrients of concern to you, such as omega-3s, magnesium, essential and toxic elements (zinc, copper, selenium, lead, cadmium, mercury); include hsCRP as a marker of inflammation or HbA1c for blood sugar health

STEP 2 Answer the online questionnaire as part of the GrassrootsHealth study

STEP 3 Using our educational materials and tools (such as our dose calculators), assess your results to determine if you are in your desired target range or if actions should be taken to get there

STEP 4 After 3-6 months of implementing your changes, re-test to see if you have achieved your target level(s)

Enroll in D*action and Build Your Custom Test Kit!