According to my periodontist and my own personal experience with gum disease anemia can indeed cause gingivitis.
I had chronic anemia for several years. During that time I had unexplained and repeated bouts of gingivitis. My oral hygiene was excellent and still I had gingivitis. When my dentist accidentally found out that I was suffering anemia he got excited and proclaimed: That explains your gingivitis!
You’ll find plenty of medical references that list gingivitis as a possible symptom of anemia.
I cannot tell you the precise physiological reason that anemia causes gingivitis but surely it is the lack of healthy red blood cells. When you are anemic you are either deficient in red blood cells or the cells you do have are impaired and cannot effectively do their job which is to deliver vital oxygen to your organs, muscles and other tissues.
Either way, your healthy pink gums are affected.
Other Symptoms of Anemia
Besides gingivitis, other symptoms of anemia vary according to the severity. You may not even notice a mild case of anemia but it will show up in a blood test. Or you may feel a certain fatigue. You might look a little pale and constantly feel cold. More serious cases of anemia may cause a foggy brain, sweatiness, shortness of breath, dizziness, insomnia, severe weakness, heart palpitations and even chest pain especially during physical exertion.
You can check yourself for anemia by pressing down on a fingernail. If it takes a long time for the nail to turn pink again, you could be anemic.1
There are many types of anemia but perhaps the two most common are low iron or a deficiency in vitmain B12 (pernicious anemia).
Iron Deficiency Causes Anemia
Your body needs iron to make red blood cells. Two common causes of low iron are poor diet or loss of blood. Women commonly experience anemia due to the loss of blood during menustration. They also experience anemia during pregnancy due to an increase in the volume of blood fluid but without a matching increase in oxygen carrying cells.
Check also the blood vessels under your eye (pull on your lower eyelid). Pale blood vessels could be a sign of anemia.
Men do not suffer anemia as often as women but if they do a common cause is bleeding.
Parasite infections such as the insidious hookworm may also be an unexplained cause of blood loss resulting in anemia due to low iron.
Lack of Vitamin B12 Causes Anemia
Vegetarians have a higher incident of anemia than meat eaters due to both a lack of iron and vitamin B12 in their diet. B12 is a nutrient essential for healthy cell division, a process that replenishes your blood. There are very few adequate vegetarian sources of vitmin B12 (try Brewer’s Yeast). The fish tapeworm, another parasite, can cause pernicious anemia because it competes with its human host for B12. It steals nutrients including B12 from your intestine where it silently lives.
Folic acid, like vitamin B12 is essential to the development of healthy blood cells and a deficiency can lead to anemia.
How to Get Enough Iron, B12 and Folic Acid In Your Diet
There are two types of dietary iron: heme and nonheme.2 Both types of iron are found in meats such as beef, chicken, turkey and some seafoods and fish. Heme iron is the most absorbable form of iron. Nonheme iron is found in plant foods and it is less absorbable. Eating both heme and nonheme sources of iron together increases your overall absorbability of iron. Vitamin C is a nutrient that is essential to the absorption of iron so a deficiency of vitamin C could potentially lead to an iron deficiency. And eating foods high in vitamin C along with iron rich foods helps you to absorb the iron.
Foods that are rich in iron include: calve’s liver, chicken liver, clams, Brewer’s Yeast, green leafy vegetables, dried apricots, blackstrap molasses, Guiness beer, almonds, and pumpkin seeds.
Folic acid is found in both green leafy vegetables, nuts, meat and dried yeast.
If you are vegetarian you must pay close attention to your diet to ensure you get an adequate supply of B12, vitamin C and iron rich foods.
Do Not Ignore Gingivitis Or the Symptoms of Anemia
Whatever the cause you cannot afford to ignore symptoms of gingivitis. And while you may find various natural treatments for gingivitis on this website, there is never any suggestion that can or should ignore gingivitis. You may be able to determine that your gingivitis is caused by poor oral hygiene and it is relatively easy to treat. If you have gingivitis you should see a dentist if at all possible.
If you have recurring bouts of gingivitis and you are certain that poor oral hygiene is not the cause you should consult both a dentist and a doctor. Make sure they both know about your recurring bouts of gingivitis. If you have anemia, make sure your dentist knows that, too. Then find out why you are anemic.
Both gingivitis and anemia may be symptoms of more serious health conditions. It is vital to seek the advice of health care practitioners.
- Blood tests that indicate anemia include…
- Serum ferritin, the iron store protein.
- Serum iron, total iron-binding capacity
- Red blood cell (RBC or hemoglobin)
Long term iron deficiency is characterized by low RBC levels, low hematocrit (volume of red blood cells), small RBCs and low serum ferritin levels. (Page 786 Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, ND) ↩
- For a more thorough discussion of iron sources by a qualified health practitioner read this article Healthy Foods that Contain Iron. ↩