Citrus fruits are among the best, and the most accessible, sources of vitamin C. While many of its properties are known, science still has a great deal to discover when it comes to using it in treatment for diseases like periodontitis.
It’s been known for centuries that lack of vitamin C can cause scurvy – and that one of the symptoms of scurvy is bleeding gums. A paper published in the International Journal of Molecular Studies earlier this year summarized the research around vitamin C, periodontitis, and vitamin D.
The Role of Vitamin C and Vitamin D in the Pathogenesis and Therapy of Periodontitis—Narrative Review was published by researchers at the Pomeranian Medical Unversity in Poland.
Periodontitis – Gum Disease
Periodontitis is a form of gum disease that can also affect the bones around the affected area, and can lead to lost teeth if untreated. At its root is inflammation caused by a microbial infection in the gum tissue. It’s your body’s response to the microbe invasion. But – in some cases, the inflammation becomes chronic, and the immune system reacts.
The resulting response damages the periodontal tissues, and can eventually lead to tooth loss. Oral hygiene is typically the issue. Plaque build up on the teeth can actually slow down the immune response, which allows other microbes and bacteria to add to the infection.
Th condition results in a complex series of symptoms, including:
- Chronic inflammation of the tissues that hold teeth in place;
- Conditions that have altered the natural microbiome of the mouth.
Vitamin C (and D)
Vitamin C plays a variety of roles that relate directly to gum health, and where a lack of it can cause disease. The studies the researchers surveyed provide a database of test results.
- Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, regulates the synthesis of collagen, a flexible protein that forms the structure of many of the body’s soft tissues, including gums;
- Some studies linked vitamin C deficiency and damage to the periodontal ligaments;
- Vitamin C plays a key role in supporting the health of the endothelial tissues (lining the heart and blood vessels);
- It assists the body’s response to infection, and helps to kill bacteria by supporting white blood cell activity.
- After surgery, patients with periodontitis had better responses when given vitamin C supplements.
Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, and a growing body of research has linked periodontitis with oxidative stress in the tissues. Vitamin D also plays a significant role, in that it tended to suppress certain inflammatory responses in the gum tissues.
Scurvy, as it turns out, is the result of seriously weakened connective tissue due to a deficit of collagen. It’s the far end of the scale when it comes to the symptoms of vitamin C deprivation.
The paper concludes that the combination of vitamins C and D can be of use in therapies to target periodontal disease. It’s an addition to the body of knowledge surrounding a common, yet still poorly understood, phenomenon.