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Bleeding Gums May Be a Sign of Vitamin C Deficiency

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Feb 18, 2021

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Image Credit: Getty Images

Bleeding gums could indicate low levels of vitamin C levels, a new, multi-country longitudinal analysis has found.

To address slightly bleeding gums — known as gingival bleeding tendency — practitioners typically recommend more brushing and flossing. But that may not be enough, the latest findings suggest.

“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,” Philippe Hujoel, a practicing dentist and professor of oral health sciences at the University of Washington School of Dentistry, who was the lead author of the study, told the media. “Vitamin C deficiency is one possible reason.”

Published this month in Oxford’s Nutrition Review, the study analyzed 15 different clinical trials focused on gingival bleeding tendencies comprising otherwise healthy people from India, Indonesia, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.


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Specialized diets like paleo, which involves just eating lean meats and low-carb food, could contribute to deficiency-related gum bleeding, the researchers noted. “Vitamin C-rich fruits such as kiwis or oranges are rich in sugar and thus typically eliminated from a low-carb diet,” Hujoel said, commenting on the low-carb diet culture.

At present, global recommendations on vitamin C intake are primarily directed at the prevention of scurvy, a disease caused by an extreme deficiency. However, intakes adequate for preventing scurvy may still be too low to prevent other negative health effects, like gum bleeding or even retinal hemorrhaging, the new research says.

The study found that increasing daily intake of vitamin C in people with low vitamin levels helped curb gum bleeding. While the researchers primarily recommended consuming non-processed vitamin C-rich foods such as kale, peppers, or kiwis, they noted that even vitamin C supplements of about 100 to 200 milligrams a day could work for those who can’t increase their consumption of vitamin C-rich foods.

Interestingly, Hujoel notes that the association between gum bleeding and vitamin C-deficiency isn’t exactly novel — scientists discovered the link around three decades ago. “There was a time in the past when gingival 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 marginalized by this over-attention to treating the symptom of bleeding with brushing or flossing, rather than treating the cause,” he said.

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Written By Devrupa Rakshit

Devrupa Rakshit is an Associate Editor at The Swaddle. She is a lawyer by education, a poet by accident, and a painter by shaukh. She has her own podcast called #DateNightsWithD on Spotify. You can find her on Instagram @devruparakshit.

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