New Help For Gum Disease
by Carey O'Rielly, D.D.S.
There seems to be a lot in the media about the link between gum problems and other diseases. How are they connected?
Because the mouth is the gateway to the body, infection in the mouth can be a vital indicator of what is going on in the system as a whole. Three out four people already have or will have
periodontal or gum disease, which affects more people than heart disease, Alzheimer's, cancer and diabetes combined. In all cases, early discovery and treatment of gum problems is the key.
Periodontal infection is generally caused by a combination of stress, acidity, and improper oral hygiene. Redness and bleeding upon brushing and flossing signal inflammation, indicating that the immune system is releasing white blood cells to resist the build up of bacteria. As immune cells die off the bacteria tend to survive relatively unaffected. proteolytic enzymes meant for bacterial break-down are released into the gums, causing the tissue to break down instead. This causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, creating open pockets that breed more bacteria. As this process continues bone around the teeth will be re-absorbed, until an advanced stage where tooth loss may occur.
All this may occur without any symptoms or pain, which is why the Surgeon General has named periodontal disease "the silent epidemic." During the stages of this disease bacteria from the gums may access our bloodstream, traveling to the brain and other organs such as the heart. Research has been published showing that fatal coronary heart disease is twice as likely and stroke is three times more likely in patients with periodontal infection than inthose without.
Periodontal infection is involved in other conditions as well such as pre-term births, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. Smokers are three times more likely to have periodontal disease and
to actually lose some of their teeth than non-smokers. Gum disease also increases the risk of pneumonia for respiratory sufferers.
Research shows that up to 30% of the population may be genetically susceptible to periodontitis, which is also communicable and can be passed between family members. Nutrition
and stress are important factors. Too much sugar creates an acidic environment in the mouth and too much stress makes it difficult for the body to resist infection. Medications like anti-depressants, oral contraceptives and some heart medicines can also affect oral tissue.
Treatment matches the stage of the disease. When gum pockets are so deep they can no longer be restored, the only treatment possible has usually been costly and painful periodontal surgery. There is now a therapy available consisting of a mineral paste applied under the gums as part of a monitored program of cleaning and maintenance. It has an excellent success rate with prevention and reversal of gum problems. There are also special rinses that kill the bacteria causing the problem. In situa-tions where the damage is more advanced and the bacteria is more resistant, a simple test can be done to identify the offenders and target them specifically.
The therapeutic gel used at our Integrative Dental Practice in Encinitas contains ingredients shown to be effective in treating gum problems. This treatment allows inflamed, bleeding gums to return to their naturally pink state. It also reduces pocketing, tooth mobility and bad breath. Combining this therapy with other support has been successful in stabilizing loose teeth and making periodontal surgery unnecessary in many cases.