Bleeding gums are often dismissed as simply a case of poor brushing habits or not flossing enough. But bleeding gums can be one of the first noticeable symptoms of progressing gum disease, which could be caused by a nutrient deficiency.
It’s surprising to many, that bleeding gums are closely related to your body’s levels of vitamin D.
Proper diet and nutrition, especially vitamin D, are essential to maintaining a healthy gut microbiome balance, which contributes to a healthy immune system, and bone homeostasis (the process where old bone is replaced by new bone tissue). And ultimately, vitamin D plays a crucial role in all three of these factors and in preventing gum disease.
Vitamin D goes far beyond just any vitamin in the body. Thousands of cells in your body has a receptor for it. It’s a unique vitamin because it’s mostly made from your cholesterol when your skin is exposed to sunlight.
You can consume some vitamin D through foods like fatty fish and fortified products but usually, it’s not enough to get vitamin D from food alone. Unfortunately, it’s estimated that more than 50 percent of the general population is vitamin D deficient.
Vitamin D has long been associated with bone health but we now understand that it’s also important in maintaining a balanced gut and encouraging a strong immune system.
These three factors, gut health, immune system strength, and bone homeostasis, are all issues that can be exacerbated by low vitamin D levels and bleeding gums can be one of the initial symptoms.
Ultimately, bleeding gums can be used as a sign of more significant health problems and it should not be ignored.
The Vicious Cycle: Vitamin D Deficiency, Your Gut Microbiome, & Your Immune System
Many don’t realize your gut microbiome plays a significant role in oral health, but after some consideration, it’s an easy connection to understand.
There are over 700 different types of bacteria that live in your mouth, which is the gateway to your gut and its microbiome. Reversely, your gut also plays a role in the health of your oral microbiome. The symbiotic relationship between the oral and gut microbiomes, means that when one is out of balance there can be a negative cyclical effect on one another.
Additionally, studies have shown that chronic oral dysbiosis (microbiome imbalance) can lead to deepening digestive imbalance, which can throw off your immune system.
To prevent bleeding gums and worsening gum disease, it’s important to maintain a good oral and gut microbiome balance because they directly impact one another.
Gut Imbalance: Chronic Inflammation: Poor Vitamin D Absorption: And Back Again
Inflammation is often caused by oral and gut microbiome imbalance, which can lead to digestive diseases. Vitamin D is a vital nutrient known to improve both oral and gut microbiome balance and decrease chronic inflammation.
Inflammation can cause a vitamin D deficiency because it’s a chronic condition that has the potential to disrupt vitamin D metabolism. This means that through taking anti-inflammatory measures, such as correcting a gut imbalance, you can improve your vitamin D absorption.
We once thought that low vitamin D levels were a direct result of low vitamin D intake. But we now know, that chronic inflammatory diseases can disrupt absorption. And because vitamin D is a known anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating effects, healthy absorption is necessary to prevent such chronic inflammatory diseases.
Breaking the cyclical impact of vitamin D can be difficult. If you suspect you have low vitamin D levels, you should schedule a test with your dentist or doctor. Vitamin D can also lead to poor bone health and if left untreated, it can cause bone complications, including gum disease over time.
Vitamin D & Your Bone Homeostasis
Even though the importance of vitamin D for your bones is widely known, it’s arguably still underestimated. And many don’t realize the role it plays in dental health and gum disease.
Vitamin D is a necessary nutrient in encouraging good bone health and bone homeostasis. Without sufficient vitamin D, you may experience bleeding gums, gum disease, and even tooth loss.
One study in Norway, found the impact of vitamin D levels on tooth health to be so significant, that tooth loss could be predicted based on what latitude a person lived in. Meaning that the slight changes in latitude degrees and therefore sun exposure, significantly impacted tooth health and bone homeostasis.
Low Vitamin D? Check Your Gut
One of the first signs of vitamin D deficiency is bleeding gums. But instead of jumping to the conclusion that simply increasing overall vitamin D intake will help, it’s important to also look at your body’s ability to readily absorb vitamin D.
Since low vitamin D levels are linked to higher risk of cancers including prostate, colon, and breast cancers, it’s crucial that we make sure we treat the limiting factors causing low vitamin D levels (poor absorption) through improving the gut microbiome first.
An imbalanced gut and inflammation negatively impact poor vitamin D absorption, which leads to low vitamin D, which can worsen inflammation, and on and on. This is a vicious cycle that is best remedied through a dual approach of improving gut imbalances and increasing vitamin D intake under the supervision of your doctor.
People at Higher Risk for Vitamin D Deficiency
There are factors that put certain people at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency, some of these include:
- Having darker skin
- Obesity or being overweight
- Diets low in fish or milk
- Living in an area with little sunlight
- Using too much sunscreen
- Staying inside too much
If you have any of these factors, you are more likely to be vitamin D deficient and should consider vitamin D supplementation or when possible changing habits.
9 Signs You Might Be Vitamin D Deficient
Many people who are vitamin D deficient have subtle symptoms which are often overlooked. Here are 9 common signs of vitamin D deficiency.
- Gum disease or bleeding gums
- Chronic fatigue
- Frequently getting sick
- Persistent pain in bones or muscles
- Broken bones
- Wounds that don’t heal well
- Loss in bone density
- Hair loss
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with your dentist or doctor and check your vitamin D levels immediately. If you are deficient (and most people are), your doctor will recommend a number of changes to help your body absorb vitamin D better.
5 Steps You Should Take If Your Gums Bleed
If you are experiencing swollen, sensitive, red or bleeding gums, first things first, you need to schedule a dental checkup and test your vitamin D levels.
- Have your teeth professionally cleaned. This removes dysbiosis plaque and helps your mouth rebalance its oral microbiome.
- Have your vitamin D levels tested. Discuss dietary supplement options with your dentist or doctor. I recommend vitamin D3 with vitamin K2. This is because D3 and K2 work alongside each other to distribute calcium.
- Increase the amount of sunlight you get each day. Try 10-20 minutes per day without sunblock (careful not to burn though).
- Get outside and exercise more. Studies have shown that people who exercise regularly have higher levels of vitamin D.
- Add food and supplements to your diet that encourage good gut health such as probiotics, prebiotic foods, and fermented foods.
A Big Picture Look at Nutrition and Dental Health
In a world of medicine that often looks to treat symptoms and ignores identifying root causes, integrative medicine and function oral health aims to consider the body as the complex symbiotic system that it is.
Acknowledging nutrients and their role in human growth and development, the gut microbiome, the immune system, and bone homeostasis is vital to understanding the mouth-body connection.
I regularly test my patients that suffer from tooth decay, gum disease, and malocclusion for vitamin deficiencies and have found that many suffer from a serious lack of vitamin D.
If you are suffering from gum disease or have noticed your gums are bleeding – a cautionary sign – you should get tested for nutrient deficiencies and consider taking steps to heal your gut and supplementing your diet with vitamin D.
Now we want to hear from you. Please leave your questions in the comments below.
Want to know more? Dr Steven Lin’s book, The Dental Diet, is available to order today. An exploration of ancestral medicine, the human microbiome and epigenetics it’s a complete guide to the mouth-body connection. Take the journey and the 40-day delicious food program for life-changing oral and whole health.
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