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The Whole Tooth: Plant Antioxidants May Help Periodontal Disease in Smokers

By Dr. Robert Kelly, D.M.D.

The Whole Tooth:  Plant Antioxidants May Help Periodontal Disease in Smokers

I’m always interested in hearing about dental news that doesn’t fit the traditional approaches of the past. So if you’ve read my articles over the years you can probably tell when there is some goofy, unique, odd-ball news related to dentistry! Previous articles about teeth jewelry, hypnotism in place of anesthesia and dentistry in barbershops come to mind.

I recently found a study from the Journal of Periodontal Research that found that a plant flavonoid named Quercetin helped reduce the negative effects of cigarette smoking on periodontal health. Quercetin is a plant flavonoid that is found in some fruits and vegetables such as apples, onions, dark berries, and red wine. Flavonoids are compounds found in plants that we ingest when we eat them and some of them can have positive effects on our overall health. They are known to be antioxidants and can be anti-inflammatory agents for the body.

Cigarette smoke is believed to contribute to periodontal disease and bone loss over time. The mechanism may be its deleterious effects on both the periodontal ligaments which hold our teeth in our mouth and also the oxidative stress on our cells that can trigger bone loss around our teeth.

A recent study by Dr. Sheng Yang showed that the Quercetin Flavonoid helped shield the periodontal ligaments’ cells and the jaw bone around teeth from the deleterious effects of cigarette smoke compared to the groups that did not have the Quercetin.

Of course it may be a while till we know the exact pathway and so a simple cure is not there yet. However, this does highlight what we have known for quite some time now, which is that the whole body is connected and the mouth is not separate from the rest of the body. It may not be a magic silver bullet but eating healthy foods probably does make a big difference in our gum, periodontal, and teeth health over time whether you’re a smoker or not.

There are definitely times when medications are needed to treat disease. But, if eating some Quercetin in our diet helps stave off some disease and maybe reduce the amount of pharmaceutical medicines we have to ingest, that to me seems preferable. So pass over some blueberries and apples!

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