Brushing teeth is highly recommended for good oral health. It is for this reason that people are trained from an early age to practise good dental hygiene by ensuring that they brush teeth daily.
This is usually a straightforward task that most individuals accomplish within minutes, without facing any complication.
But in certain instances, the brushing process may reveal underlying conditions that can adversely affect people's oral health.
An example is bleeding gums, which may appear normal to many people. Yet, it could be a sign of gingivitis (inflammation of the gums),
The bleeding usually happens when plaque or bacteria accumulates on the teeth. If left untreated, the condition can deteriorate into full-blown periodontal disease that can eventually lead to loss of teeth. This happens as the gums begin to pull away from the teeth.
As such, doctors usually advise people with bleeding gums to make sure that they brush and floss their teeth twice a day, preferably in the morning and evening.
Even though bleeding gums are often linked to plaque or bacteria accumulation in teeth, health experts note that it could also signal a Vitamin-C deficiency in the body.
They therefore urge people to exert caution whenever they experience bleeding gums and not just assume that it is caused by bad oral hygiene.
The researchers note that doctors should also assess the Vitamin-C levels of people that seek medical care for bleeding gums.
Vitamin-C helps in boosting the body's immunity and can therefore preserve dental health by destroying disease causing organisms that enhance people's risk of suffering from gum disease.
Due to its essential role in the production of collagen, a protein found in the skin and other connective tissues, Vitamin-C also supports dental health by maintaining the optimal functioning of dental ligaments and bones.
In addition to this role, vitamin-C may lower the risk of periodontal disease, and even facilitate the healing of damaged gums due to its strong antioxidant capacity.
"When you see your gums bleed, the first thing you should think about is not, I should brush more. You should try to figure out why your gums are bleeding. And vitamin-C deficiency is one possible reason," says Dr Philippe Hujoel, the lead author of the study, dentist and professor of oral health sciences at the University of Washington (UW) where the research was done.
During the research, the study authors analysed published studies of 15 clinical trials in six countries, involving 1,140 predominantly healthy participants and data from 8,210 US residents.
The results of the study, published in the Nutrition Reviews Journal, showed that bleeding of the gums on gentle probing, as well as bleeding in the eye were associated with low vitamin-C levels in the bloodstream.
In addition, the researchers found that increasing the daily intake of vitamin-C in those people with low levels of the nutrient helped to reverse these bleeding issues.
Consequently, the researchers recommend that people attempt to keep an eye on their vitamin-C intake through incorporation of non-processed foods such as vegetables and citrus fruits into their diet.
"And if you can't find palatable foods rich in vitamin-C, consider a supplement of about 100 to 200 milligrams a day," states Dr Hujoel.
According to the researchers, the association between gum bleeding and vitamin-C levels was recognised more than 30 years ago. However, they note that this connection somehow got lost in dental conversations around bleeding gums.
"There was a time in the past when gum bleeding was more generally considered to be a potential marker for a lack of vitamin-C. But over time, that's been drowned out or marginalised by this over-attention to treating the symptom of bleeding with brushing or flossing, rather than treating the cause," Dr Hujoel states.
He notes that the study also revealed that bleeding in the eye and cerebral strokes are associated with increased gum bleeding tendencies.
"But Vitamin-C supplementation reverses the eye bleeding associated with low levels of the nutrient. So, missing the possible connection between gum bleeding and low levels of vitamin-C has the potential to have serious health consequences."
The study authors therefore note that a default prescription of oral hygiene and other dental interventions to treat bleeding problems, even if partially effective in reversing gum bleeding is risky as other grave underlying conditions linked to Vitamin-C deficiency may be missed.