Gum Disease

High glutathione levels keep gums disease-free

26 November, 2002; BBC News World Edition - Health
People with severe gum disease have been found to have low levels of antioxidant chemicals that may offer natural protection. Periodontal (gum) disease, in which bacteria attack the teeth and gums, has been linked to both the onset of diabetes and a worsening of lung disease. Studies have even pointed to gum disease as a potential threat to unborn children. New research has found that the levels of a key antioxidant called Glutathione were much higher in patients who had healthy gums. Patients with severe gum disease had very low levels of the chemical. The researchers are hopeful that they might find a way to boost antioxidant levels in patients with a treatment or diet advice.


Healthy Gums and Healthy Heart:  The role of Glutathione and its antioxidant partners

Jan. 2, 2003  Author:  Theodore Hersh, MD, MACG

Professor of Medicine, Emeritus, Emory University

Epidemiological studies have revealed the association and prevalence of gingival (gum) disease and coronary artery disease in the elderly.  Studies have shown there is nearly a three-fold increase of heart disease in patients with gingivitis and periodontitis, independent of other risk factors such as tobacco abuse.

The free radicals that are generated in the inflammation process of periodontal disease promote the oxidation of plasma low density lipoproteins (LDL), which then enhance the development of atherosclerosis.  LDLs in blood transport the “bad” cholesterol, another etiologic factor in cardiovascular disease. 

Blood and tissue levels of glutathione, the body’s pivotal antioxidant, and its synergistic partners, tend to be decreased in the elderly and this decrease has been related to early senescence and various geriatric conditions.  Local and systemic repletion of glutathione and the other antioxidants in the glutathione cycle help repair gingival disease and thereby may decrease the risks of developing atherosclerosis.  This is one of the many anti-aging functions of glutathione, the body’s chief protector and detoxificant.  It reduces the inflammation present in gingival and periodontal diseases. 

In the oral cavity, glutathione has been shown to promote the normal process of attachment, spreading and growth of gingival fibroblasts, cells which are vital in periodontal tissue repair.  Tobacco (whether smoked or chewed) and betel quid chewing inhibit these tissue mechanisms and locally deplete the glutathione intracellular levels.  If the cell’s glutathione levels are low the injurious free radicals, the noxious factors, interfere with collagen synthesis and cause DNA mutations which increase the risks of developing oro-pharyngeal malignancies.  Repletion with glutathione and its endogenous antioxidant partners abolishes the damaging effects of the free radicals on the periodontal tissues, thereby, promoting functioning gingival fibroblasts.  This then promotes normal fibroblasts, which decreases the inflammation and enhances collagen synthesis vital for gum repair.  Teleologically, healthy gums lessen risks of atherosclerosis.

Periodontal disease results from invasion of pathogenic micro-organisms and bacterial toxins in the gingival causing inflammation and destruction of the connective tissue.  This generates toxic free radicals which aggravate gingival problems, while both bacteria and free radicals contribute to inflammation of arterial walls and oxidation of plasma low density lipo-proteins, liking gum disease to atherosclerosis.  The elderly are greatly afflicted by periodontal disease and loss of teeth, a condition which complicates coronary heart diseases.  Oxidative stress also accelerates gingival disease in diabetic patients and promotes the vascular complications of diabetes. 

Local antibacterial therapy and odontologic procedures are mandatory to help gingivitis and periodontitis.   The administration of antioxidants, low in senescent subjects, are adjuncts in the management of gingival disease.  Healthy gums thus may equate to a healthy heart, and glutathione therapy with its synergistic antioxidants may then maximize longevity.


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