Investigating the link between gut and gum health

2016 08 22 14 15 49 958 Danenberg Alvin 400

I get inspired about things to which others may respond with a yawn. Well, it's the geek in me coming out. For example a July 2017 study in the journal Cytokine has inspired me enough to write a protocol for a double-blind study, which will be fully funded by a U.S. company.

Let's start at the beginning.

The clinical study

According to this study in Cytokine (July 2017, Vol. 95, pp. 1-6), the researchers recruited 21 patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and chronic periodontitis.

Alvin Danenberg, DDS.Alvin Danenberg, DDS.

Inflammatory bowel disease relates to a group of chronic intestinal diseases characterized by inflammation of the large or small intestines. The most common types of IBD are ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. This disease creates endotoxemia, which compromises the immune function and contributes to systemic chronic inflammation.

The research showed those patients with active IBD had increased gum tissue inflammation compared with the patients with their IBD in remission. The study authors suggested that changes in one mucosal surface in the body could affect other mucosal surfaces anywhere else in the body.

According to the researchers, their paper was the first published research that showed IBD could directly affect the gum tissues in the mouth.

My takeaway from this study is that the gut directly affects the mouth and the progression of gum disease. If the gut microbiome can be restored to a state of balance along with repair of the gut membrane and elimination of chronic inflammation, then I can infer from this trial that there could be a reduction and possible remission of active gum disease.

Current, vigorous medical research is uncovering the importance and the causal relationships between dysbiosis in the gut and the proliferation of many chronic and autoimmune diseases. With this supporting science from this study, a potential path may be originating from the gut that may improve what I treat daily -- periodontal disease.

My double-blind study

This research has inspired me to connect the dots.

There are two major questions to which I am seeking answers:

  • Can a healthy gut heal or prevent gum disease?
  • Can vitamin K2 rescue the mitochondria in unhealthy gum tissue cells?

I want to investigate the potentially beneficial effects on active gum disease of a daily supplement. In the study, participants will consume this supplement once each day with meals over the course of 30 days.

I am collaborating with a microbiologist and a physician specializing in immunology and toxicology to write the protocol for this double-blind, randomized controlled trial.

Half the participants will take a placebo and half will take the supplement, which will consist of a probiotic and a high dose of vitamin K2. At the beginning of the trial and 30 days later, dental hygienists will document active gum disease in these individuals and will obtain gum tissue cells using a noninvasive gum swab. Laboratory analysis of the cells will determine the degree of mitochondrial dysfunction.

Currently, we are enlisting dental offices that may want to participate in this study. Human research requires various regulatory steps, so we are working on receiving approval from an institutional review board. After this is granted, our team will initiate the study in several dental offices in the U.S. and Canada.

Stay tuned for the results.

If your practice is interested in participating in this clinical study, please contact Dr. Danenberg via email.

A version of this column first ran on Dr. Danenberg's blog. appreciates the opportunity to reprint it. His book Crazy-Good Living from Elektra Press is available here.

Alvin Danenberg, DDS, practices at the Bluffton Center for Dentistry in Bluffton, SC. He is also on the faculty of the College of Integrative Medicine and created its integrative periodontal teaching module. He also spent two years as chief of periodontics at Charleston Air Force Base earlier in his career. His website is

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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