Bleeding gums. If you have bleeding gums, chances are you’re both concerned and looking for an explanation of how those gums started bleeding. You’ve considered the immediate possibilities: you haven’t been brushing too hard. You haven’t had any recent injuries to your mouth—haven’t poked yourself with a fork or toothpick, haven’t been struck in the mouth, and haven’t burned the inside of your mouth with any hot liquids or food. Your brushing routine is solid—your dentist just complimented you on your lack of plaque buildup at your last dental appointment a few months ago. So what’s the deal? Unfortunately, the answer may still lie with what you’re putting in your mouth, or, more specifically, what you’re not putting in your mouth. It’s possible that your dietary choices may be hurting your gums by causing a vitamin deficiency.
A Scurvy Situation
You may have heard about the existence of a condition called scurvy. If you have, chances are good it brings to mind pirate ships and explorers sailing the high seas. While it is true that scurvy throughout most of history was the scourge of naval crews and military readiness, thankfully, scurvy is rarely seen in the modern world. Scurvy is the name for a severe vitamin C deficiency. Bleeding gums and tooth loss are some of the unpleasant symptoms of advanced scurvy, along with fatigue, bleeding easily, bruising easily, vision problems, and weakness just to name a few. Scurvy is extremely uncommon in the developed world. When it does pop up, it generally happens to people with severely restricted diets, either because of an eating disorder, or other food-related mental illness, poverty restricting access to healthy foods, and in children under two who are being fed a diet of only pasteurized dairy products.
So What’s to Be Done?
Scurvy is extremely treatable. Reintroducing foods with high vitamin C content, like fresh fruits and vegetables, allows the body to begin healing. Vitamin C supplements will probably be recommended by your doctor to treat a severe vitamin C deficiency. Luckily, these treatments are extremely successful in treating vitamin C deficiency. If you think that a vitamin C deficiency is causing your bleeding gums, talk to your doctor or dental health team to review your diet and risk factors and to develop a treatment plan if necessary.
The Clotting Factor
Vitamin C is not the only vitamin to suspect if your gums are bleeding and your diet is less than perfect. Vitamin K could also be the culprit. Vitamin K is essential for bone and blood health. When you don’t have sufficient vitamin K, your blood doesn’t clot properly. If your blood doesn’t clot properly, you’re apt to bleed abundantly from even minor wounds, including what should be minor irritation of the gums.
A vitamin K deficiency is not something you want to self-diagnose and treat without help from a healthcare professional. For most people, vitamin K has no negative effects. But, because vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, it is harder for the body to get rid of excess amounts if you take too much in compared to a water-soluble vitamin, such as vitamin C. The FDA recommends getting your nutrition from food whenever possible, including your need for vitamin K. If you seem to have clotting issues, bleeding gums or not, it’s vital to your oral health and overall health to talk to your healthcare team about your concerns.
Fighting Oxidative Stress
Vitamins A & E, along with vitamin C, are known as anti-oxidants. Antioxidants help repair damage to the body by chemicals that cause oxidative stress (cell damage) in the body. In non-smokers, a diet high in these vitamins has been shown in studies to improve gum health with people suffering from periodontitis. Vitamin E may improve the effectiveness of root-planing, a type of deep cleaning used to help treat gum disease caused by a buildup of plaque at the gumline.
Vitamins A & E are both fat-soluble vitamins, so it’s a good idea to talk to a healthcare professional and make sure that you really need to supplement your diet with either of those nutrients before going overboard consuming either vitamin.
Bone health is dependent on more than calcium minerals; it also needs vitamin D to be healthy. That’s why vitamin D is added to milk in modern America. You may remember that bones and teeth are made similarly. Consequently, if you’ve eliminated other vitamin causes for your bleeding gums, it’s worth taking a look at your vitamin D levels. Some studies have found that patients with healthier levels of vitamin D in their blood are less likely to lose teeth even if they have early gum disease. It appears that vitamin D levels are even more important for healthy gums for people over the age of 50.
It’s agreed that more studies are needed to establish exactly how to achieve the most benefit from vitamin D, but early signs are enough to recognize that it is important to overall oral health.
So What Can I do While I’m Working on My Diet?
You can practice great homecare. While you’re getting your vitamins, don’t neglect your mineral heath. Use a fluoride toothpaste with nanohydroxyapatite to maximize enamel health. Support good gum health with oral care products that support healthy oral pH. Most of all, keep talking to your dental care team and other members of your healthcare team. Your oral health is a part of your overall health, and you should be treating both areas of your health together to achieve your healthy living goals.