Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Subscribe to the Magazine for free
Subscribe for free to keep reading! If you are already subscribed, enter your email address to log back in.
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Are you a healthcare practitioner?
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

A Root Cause Medicine Approach to Gum Disease

Medically reviewed by 
A Root Cause Medicine Approach to Gum Disease

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a prevalent yet preventable condition that affects a significant portion of the global population. Gum disease is characterized by inflammation of the gums and supporting structures of the teeth. 

Gum disease can lead to serious health complications if left untreated, including tooth loss and systemic health issues. In this article, we will discuss the root cause of gum disease and natural prevention and treatment options.


What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a common condition that affects the soft tissue around the teeth. Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease and can be found in up to 90% of the population. 

Gingivitis is characterized by inflammation of the gums and can present with swelling, redness, and bleeding during brushing or flossing. Gingivitis is reversible with proper treatment and attention to oral hygiene

If gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress to periodontitis. Periodontitis occurs when pathogenic bacteria penetrate deeper into the periodontium, resulting in bad breath, receding gums, and pus formation between the teeth and gums. 

Recognizing early signs of gingivitis and implementing intervention can help prevent the progression of gum disease and preserve oral health (22).

What is Root Cause Medicine?

Root cause medicine is a holistic approach to healthcare that looks beyond symptom management and focuses on identifying and addressing the underlying factors leading to disease. It focuses on each patient as an individual and examines physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual imbalances in the body. 

While conventional medicine only examines labs and symptoms, root cause medicine includes nutrition, lifestyle, genetic abnormalities, and underlying infections and toxicity in the body. 

By applying the principles of root cause medicine to oral health and gum disease, practitioners can offer more comprehensive and personalized treatment approaches that address underlying factors contributing to disease (57).

Identifying the 4 Most Common Root Causes of Gum Disease

There might be a genetic factor influencing someone’s predisposition to getting gum disease. However, the following root causes tend to have an even larger impact on oral health:

1. Nutrient Deplete Diet: 

Nutrition plays an important role in maintaining oral health, influencing the risk of developing cavities, gum disease, and even oral cancer. A high-sugar, high-saturated fat, and low-fiber diet has been shown to increase the risk of periodontal disease. 

In addition, alcohol abuse is correlated with an increase in gum disease. 

On the contrary, a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids, low sugar, and high fiber diet reduces the risk of periodontal disease. Specifically, following a Mediterranean diet, vegetarian diet, or DASH diet is correlated with a decrease in gum disease (32).

2. Poor Gut Health: 

Gut dysbiosis is correlated with various diseases throughout the human body. There is microbial transmission between the oral cavity and gut microbiome, emphasizing the presence of an oral gut microbiome axis. 

The link between oral health and gut dysbiosis is bi-directional. For example, in patients with Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD), studies show a direct change in the oral microbiome leading to early stages of gum disease. 

It is also predicted that inflammation within the gut from Crohn's, Celiac, IBS, etc, triggers an immune response resulting in proinflammatory cytokines entering systemic circulation and affecting the oral microbiome. 

Furthermore, oral pathogens such as P. gingivalis, a bacteria implicated in gingivitis, produce damage to the gut lining which can lead to gastrointestinal disease (2, 7, 33). 

3. High Stress: 

When under stress, the body releases cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline which have all been associated with changes in the oral microbiome. Increased cortisol levels produce shifts in the oral cavity closely linked to those with periodontal disease. 

Additionally, the secretion of noradrenaline and adrenaline promoted the growth of Actinomyces, Eikenella, and Campylobacter within the oral cavity. These findings suggest hormonal changes when under stress are correlated with a rise in pathogenic bacteria promoting the development of gum disease (34).

To learn more about the connection between stress and oral health, read this article:

4. Exposure to Environmental Toxins: 

Smoking tobacco increases your risk of developing periodontal disease by 5-20-fold. Individuals who regularly smoke cigarettes are at greater risk for developing bone loss, deep periodontal pockets of inflammation, and tooth loss. It has also been shown that smoking is correlated with a decrease in the effectiveness of treatments. 

In addition to smoking, the presence of elevated heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and mercury is associated with an increased risk of developing periodontitis (21, 22).

How to Prevent and Treat Gum Disease

After understanding the root causes, the pathway to treatment becomes much clearer. 

First, Increase Nutrients in the Diet: 

Nutrients provide the building blocks for gum health, which is why increasing nutrients is the best way to start a treatment plan.

  • Micronutrients such as vitamins C, A, E, folic acid, and calcium are necessary for maintaining periodontal health and preventing gum disease. 
  • Increasing the intake of carotenoids through consuming carrots, sweet potatoes, and green leafy vegetables aids in supporting vitamin A levels. 
  • Increasing citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruit supports healthy vitamin C levels. 
  • For more specific guidance on following this type of diet, you can read more about the Mediterranean diet (32).

Nutrient-dense foods that also have anti-inflammatory properties are another important group to add to the diet. 

  • Shifting total fat intake to include more omega-3 fatty acids supports healthy inflammation levels and has been shown to decrease the risk of gum disease. 
  • Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include olive oil, salmon, flaxseed, walnuts, and soybeans (32).

The intake of dietary fiber in the diet is inversely correlated with periodontal disease. Examples of foods high in fiber are fruits, oats, vegetables, and beans. 

In addition to incorporating healthy food choices, supplementing with xylitol and CoQ10 has shown a significant reduction in gingival inflammation and pathogenic bacteria (31, 32).

Second, Improve Gut Health:

In addition to a healthy diet, implementing probiotics and fermented foods can beneficially impact our gut microbiome. A healthier gut microbiome is linked to improved oral health.

Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, and yogurt contain beneficial probiotics aiding in a healthy gut. It has also been shown that a diet high in fermented foods decreases signs of inflammation in the gut. 

Incorporating probiotic and prebiotic supplements also aids in improving gut health by regulating the colonization of healthy strains of bacteria and decreasing pathogenic strains (30, 47).

If poor gut health is significant, providers should target this more directly. Here are helpful articles to learn more about improving gut health:

Third, Reduce Stress With Stress Management Techniques 

Because stress hormones are closely correlated with an increase in periodontal disease, stress management is a critical part of a well-rounded oral health treatment plan. 

Implementing stress reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, and regular exercise are effective methods in calming stress hormones

One study showed that practicing yoga accelerates treatment outcomes by decreasing stress in periodontal disease. Further research has shown practicing pranayama, a type of yoga, results in a decrease in salivary cortisol and, thus, a decrease in the level of plaque and gingival inflammation (1, 38). 

Finally, Decrease Toxic Load and Support Gentle Detoxification

Periodontal disease is associated with increased exposure to heavy metals and smoking tobacco. These metals can be found either within the cigarettes themselves, in unclean water, or in contaminated foods. 

To decrease exposure to environmental toxins, it is recommended to eat primarily organic-grown food, avoid processed foods, eliminate plastics, and avoid aluminum-based cooking equipment. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, one-quarter of Americans are exposed to toxicants within the water supply. To decrease this exposure, it is recommended to install a carbon-based filter into the main water line of your home (35).

It also may be beneficial to implement the following practices that support the body’s detoxification pathways:

  • Eat or supplement additional specific nutrients such as B vitamins, sulfur-rich foods, and antioxidants like vitamins C and E because they all support the liver and protect against oxidative stress
  • Supplement with milk thistle, NAC, and curcumin, which can also enhance kidney and liver detoxification (54).
  • Dosages need to be discussed with a healthcare practitioner who can make a recommendation based on total medical history.

How to Integrate Root Cause Medicine with Conventional Dental Care

Holistic dentistry approaches gum disease with a focus on oral health and its relation to other organ systems. Conventional dentistry focuses on treating symptoms rather than looking at the underlying cause. 

It is important to treat periodontal disease with a holistic approach to identify the root causes of disease and make the necessary lifestyle adjustments needed to correct underlying pathology. 

Functional medicine practitioners and dentists must collaborate to optimize patient outcomes. By working together, medical professionals and dentists can address both the dental aspects of gum disease and its systemic implications (52).


Key Takeaways

  • The adoption of root-cause medicine in treating periodontal disease offers significant promise in both the prevention and treatment of gum disease. 
  • Patients need to integrate holistic health strategies such as proper nutrition and stress management techniques when treating periodontal disease. 
  • Readers should be encouraged to seek out healthcare practitioners who embrace a comprehensive approach to dental care.
The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
Learn More
No items found.

Lab Tests in This Article

No items found.

1. Ananthalakshmi, R., Mahendra, J., Jayamathi, P., Mahendra, L., Kareem, N., & Subramaniam, S. (2018). Effect of Sudarshan Kriya Pranayama on periodontal status and human salivary beta-defensin-2: An interventional study. Dental Research Journal, 15(5), 327–333.

2. Arimatsu, K., Yamada, H., Miyazawa, H., Minagawa, T., Nakajima, M., Ryder, M. I., Gotoh, K., Motooka, D., Nakamura, S., Iida, T., & Yamazaki, K. (2014). Oral pathobiont induces systemic inflammation and metabolic changes associated with alteration of gut microbiota. Scientific Reports, 4(1).

3. Bertagna, B. (2024, February 13). The Link Between Oral Health and Overall Well-Being. Rupa Health.

4. Bertanga, B. (2024a, January 4). Understanding the Potential Benefits of Milk Thistle for Fatty Liver. Rupa Health.

5. Bertanga, B. (2024b, March 14). Oral Microbiome 101: Understanding the Basics of Your Mouth’s Microbial World. Rupa Health.

6. Blake, K. (2023, May 22). Anti Inflammatory Diet 101: What to Eat and Avoid Plus Specialty Labs To Monitor Results. Rupa Health.

7. Byrd, K. M., & Gulati, A. S. (2021). The “Gum–Gut” Axis in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: A Hypothesis-Driven Review of Associations and Advances. Frontiers in Immunology, 12.

8. Christie, J. (2022, December 13). 95% of American’s Aren’t Getting Enough Fiber: How Many Grams Should We Be Consuming Per Day?

9. Christie, J. (2023, January 25). The Health Risk of Plastics. Rupa Health.

10. Cloyd, J. (2022, December 8). 3 Natural Treatments For Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Rupa Health.

11. Cloyd, J. (2023a, February 28). A Functional Medicine Protocol for Leaky Gut Syndrome. Rupa Health.

12. Cloyd, J. (2023b, June 5). A Functional Medicine Celiac Disease Protocol: Specialty Testing, Nutrition, and Supplements. Rupa Health.

13. Cloyd, J. (2023c, October 2). A Functional Medicine Approach to Stress Management. Rupa Health.

14. Cloyd, J. (2023d, October 18). The 6 Most Important Uses of Omega-3s For Your Health. Rupa Health.

15. Cloyd, J. (2023e, November 13). The Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle: From Diet to Mindfulness. Rupa Health.

16. Cloyd, J. (2024, January 26). Vitamin E: Enhancing Reproductive Health and Hormonal Balance. Rupa Health.

17. Cloyd, K. (2023a, October 4). Inflammation and Gut Health: Understanding the Impact on Overall Well-Being. Rupa Health.

18. Cloyd, K. (2023b, December 20). Interpreting Oxidative Stress Markers. Rupa Health.

19. DePorto, T. (2023, January 10). Timeline: What Happens Inside Your Body When You Quit Smoking? Rupa Health.

20. Diorio, B. (2022, October 25). How to Balance Adrenaline Levels Naturally. Rupa Health.

21.  Emecen-Huja, P., Li, H-F., Ebersole, J. L., Lambert, J., & Bush, H. (2019). Epidemiologic evaluation of Nhanes for environmental Factors and periodontal disease. Scientific Reports, 9(1).

22. Gasner, N. S., & Schure, R. S. (2023, April 10). Periodontal Disease. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing.

23. Greenan, S. (2021, November 5). A Functional Medicine Approach To IBS. Rupa Health.

24. Kalaichandran, A. (2024, February 23). Extinguishing the Habit, Igniting Life: The Transformative Impact of Quitting Smoking. Rupa Health.

25. Khakham, C. (2023a, March 28). An integrative medicine approach to kidney disease. Rupa Health.

26. Khakham, C. (2023b, July 10). Understanding Environmental Toxins and Their Impact on Health. Rupa Health.

27. Kresge, K. (2023, January 31). An Integrative Approach to Mental Health. Rupa Health.

28. Maholy, N. (2023a, April 14). How to reduce stress through mind-body therapies. Rupa Health.

29. Maholy, N. (2023b, May 10). A Functional Medicine Immune Support Protocol. Rupa Health.

30. Maholy, N. (2023c, June 29). The Role of Probiotics and Prebiotics in Gut Health: An Integrative Perspective. Rupa Health.

31. Manthena, S. (2015). Effectiveness of CoQ10 Oral Supplements as an Adjunct to Scaling and Root Planing in Improving Periodontal Health. JOURNAL of CLINICAL and DIAGNOSTIC RESEARCH.

32. Martinon, P., Fraticelli, L., Giboreau, A., Dussart, C., Bourgeois, D., & Carrouel, F. (2021). Nutrition as a Key Modifiable Factor for Periodontitis and Main Chronic Diseases. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 10(2), E197.

33. Nakajima, M., Arimatsu, K., Kato, T., Matsuda, Y., Minagawa, T., Takahashi, N., Ohno, H., & Yamazaki, K. (2015). Oral Administration of P. gingivalis Induces Dysbiosis of Gut Microbiota and Impaired Barrier Function Leading to Dissemination of Enterobacteria to the Liver. PLOS ONE, 10(7), e0134234.

34. Paudel, D., Uehara, O., Giri, S., Yoshida, K., Morikawa, T., Kitagawa, T., Matsuoka, H., Miura, H., Toyofuku, A., Kuramitsu, Y., Ohta, T., Kobayashi, M., & Abiko, Y. (2022). Effect of psychological stress on the oral-gut microbiota and the potential oral-gut-brain axis. The Japanese Dental Science Review, 58, 365–375.

35. Pizzorno, J. (2017). Toxin Exposure Reduction. Integrative Medicine (Encinitas, Calif.), 16(6), 8–10.

36. Stanford, J. (2024a, February 15). Pro-Inflammatory Foods: What to Avoid and Why. Rupa Health.

37. Stanford, J. (2024b, March 12). Mastering the Bs: A Comprehensive Cheat Sheet on Vitamins B1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 12 for Healthcare Practitioners. Rupa Health.

38. Sudhanshu, A., Sharma, U., Vadiraja, H., Rana, R., & Singhal, R. (2017). Impact of yoga on periodontal disease and stress management. International Journal of Yoga, 10(3), 121.

39. Sweetnich, J. (2023a, February 17). 6 Health Benefits of Prebiotics. Rupa Health.

40. Sweetnich, J. (2023b, February 28). How to Balance Cortisol Levels Naturally. Rupa Health.

41. Sweetnich, J. (2023c, March 24). Vitamin A 101: Health Benefits, Testing, & Top Foods. Rupa Health.

42. Sweetnich, J. (2023d, March 28). Calcium 101: Testing, top foods, & supplements. Rupa Health.

43. Sweetnich, J. (2023e, April 13). What is NAC’s Role in The Body? Rupa Health.

44. Sweetnich, J. (2023f, May 8). The Antioxidant Powerhouse: Exploring Testing, Health Benefits, and Sources of Vitamin E. Rupa Health.

45. Sweetnich, J. (2023g, May 8). Understanding the Importance of Folate Testing and Proper Supplementation for Optimal Health. Rupa Health.

46. Sweetnich, J. (2023h, May 19). Overview of The Liver 101: Top Conditions, Specialty Testing, and Integrative Medicine Treatment Options. Rupa Health.

47. Weaver, B. J. (2021, July 12). A fermented-food diet increases microbiome diversity and lowers inflammation, Stanford study finds. News Center.

48. Weinberg, J. (2022, November 16). 4 Science Backed Health Benefits of The Mediterranean Diet. Rupa Health.

49. Weinburg, J. (2022, April 14). 4 Lifestyle Changes That Help Manage Crohn’s Disease. Rupa Health.

50. Weinburg, J. (2024a, January 2). Impact of Plant-Based Diets on Chronic Inflammation Reduction. Rupa Health.

51. Weinburg, J. (2024b, February 29). The Neurobiology of Stress: Cortisol and Beyond. Rupa Health.

52. Whitman, S. (2023, February 24). What is Functional Dentistry. Rupa Health.

53. Yoshimura, H. (2023a, June 21). The Use Of Nutrition And Dietary Changes In Managing Chronic Illnesses. Rupa Health.

54. Yoshimura, H. (2023b, August 1). A Comprehensive Guide to Nutrition and Supplements for Supporting Detoxification Pathways. Rupa Health.

55. Yoshimura, H. (2023c, August 9). Heavy Metals Test 101: Why Testing Heavy Metals is Important For A Root Cause Medicine Approach. Rupa Health.

56. Yoshimura, H. (2023d, September 6). A Root Cause Approach To Mercury Toxicity: A Comprehensive Guide. Rupa Health.

57. Yoshimura, H. (2023e, October 3). Digging Deeper: How Root Cause Medicine Addresses Chronic Health Issues. Rupa Health.

58. Yoshimura, H. (2023f, November 7). The remarkable power of exercise on our health: A comprehensive overview. Rupa Health.

59. Yoshimura, H. (2023g, November 29). Tooth Tales: The Not-So-Sweet Impact of Sugar on Dental Decay. Rupa Health.

60. Yoshimura, H. (2024, March 14). The Relationship Between Oral Health and Systemic Disease. Rupa Health. 

Subscribe to the Magazine for free to keep reading!
Subscribe for free to keep reading, If you are already subscribed, enter your email address to log back in.
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Are you a healthcare practitioner?
Thanks for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.