Even if your smile looks healthy, there’s a good chance you have gum disease, (otherwise known as periodontal disease), lurking around those pearly whites. As much as 85 percent of the adult population has some level of periodontal disease, according to current scientific research. Periodontal disease is the most common chronic infection known to man. It is considered an infectious disease and is easily spread within families and close circles of friends.
The Mouth-Body Connection
Controlling your gum disease is critical if you want to keep your teeth. But controlling gum disease also is key to your overall health — the bacteria that cause gum disease can spread from your mouth to the rest of your body. Research has shown links between gum disease and premature birth, as well as other complications during pregnancy. Periodontal disease can worsen diabetes and diabetes can worsen periodontal disease. This insidious disease is also linked to heart attacks and strokes, lung and kidney diseases and may be a factor in multiple cancers, as well as Alzheimer’s disease. In essence, periodontal disease can be life-threatening. This is why we refer to the mouth-body connection as the oral/systemic link.
An Inflammatory Disease
Gum disease is an inflammatory disease, which is why it is able to be so destructive – to every organ, every cell in the body. Inflammation is known to be the root cause of nearly all degenerative disease, including cancer. As an active, bacterial infection, it is contagious. You can catch it through mouth to mouth kissing and sharing drinks and food. Not everyone who is exposed to the bacteria which cause gum disease gets the disease, but a diligent regimen of good home care, good nutrition and professional care is necessary to avoid its grip. Alarmingly, periodontal disease is a silent disease until symptoms appear usually in its mid to late stages.
Do you have the gene for Periodontal Disease?
According to dental research, one-third of the population has a genetic marker for the disease. Having the genetic marker doesn’t mean you must “kiss your teeth goodbye,” though. It just means you are more susceptible. Anyone, at any age, can be easily tested for the genetic marker for periodontal disease via a simple DNA-PCR salivary test, but the genetic test isn’t necessary for every patient. We find it especially helpful for establishing proper home care and professional maintenance protocols for someone who is at risk for the disease. If you don’t have the genetic marker – you’re not in the clear – you can still get periodontal disease. Remember, about 85% of the population have periodontal disease and only 33% have the genetic marker. And if you have the genetic marker, it doesn’t mean you have to have gum disease. It means you just have to work harder not to have it. And, once controlled, its treatment and prevention may need to be more aggressive if you have the disease.
What Dangerous Bacteria is Causing Your Disease?
If diagnosed with periodontal disease, another important test is the bacterial DNA salivary test which assesses the specific type and number of destructive periodontal bacteria in your mouth, ie, the bacteria which are causing YOUR disease. By knowing the results of this test, targeted treatment can be designed for your disease. The test, which typically costs less than $200, is important for someone diagnosed with periodontal disease and/or someone considering dental surgery and major dental treatment. With the knowledge of what bacteria are contaminating your mouth and infecting your bloodstream, the disease can be better managed, healing is accelerated and postoperative complications are minimized.
Zero Tolerance for Bleeding Gums
As for prevention, it’s important to get children in early for proper treatment and testing if they show any signs of gingivitis (early gum disease) such as bleeding when they brush or floss their teeth. There should be a zero tolerance for bleeding gums and our profession and the public is slowly beginning to realize this fact. Early detection is critical as the longer a person has gum disease, the more aggressive the bacterial colonies become. In essence, the less dangerous bacteria transform into the more dangerous ones, as time goes on. According to the American Academy of Periodontology if one person in the family is diagnosed with periodontal disease, the entire family should be evaluated. Remember, periodontal disease is a highly contagious disease.
Treatment Must Be Multifaceted
Because periodontal disease is such a complex disease, its successful treatment and management requires a multi-faceted approach. There are many steps you can take to avoid gum surgery, as long as you are under a watchful professional eye.
We work closely with patients’ physicians to screen our patients with periodontal disease for certain blood markers related to gum disease, such as Vit D, cholesterol, high sensitivity-C-reactive protein levels and diabetic markers. We enjoy helping our patients’ and their physicians manage their total body health – a natural result of treating our patients’ periodontal disease.
Healing from the Inside Out …And the Outside-In
Proper nutrition, in the form of a minimum of eight tennis ball servings of fruits and vegetables per day – along with specially targeted nutritional supplements – help boost the integrity of the entire immune system, and nourish the oral soft tissues when necessary, this is what we call “healing from the inside out.” It is important to realize that the soft tissue in the mouth is the most vulnerable tissue in the body and the periodontal bacteria living in the mouth are some of the most aggressive bacteria living anywhere in the body. A dose of a specific antibiotic may be necessary if the bacterial load is exceedingly high, and is only recommended after confirmation of the need via bacterial DNA testing.
Simultaneously with medical consultation, simple bacterial testing and nutritional support the root surfaces of the teeth are smoothed to remove the excessive build-up and toxins which are embedded on the roots and in the soft but sticky “biofilm” on the teeth which is much like the film that develops inside an aquarium or flower vase. Simultaneously, the calcified debris is removed from the teeth, which is much like barnacles on a boat.
This treatment helps to reduce inflammation and the depth of pockets between the teeth and gums. For more serious cases of periodontal disease in our office, these procedures are combines with gentle laser treatment to disinfect the roots of the teeth and the soft tissue around the teeth. With these methods, traditional periodontal surgery is rarely needed to treat the diseased tissue.
Probiotics for the mouth help your gums, prevent decay and whiten your teeth all at once!
As part of treatment, and for follow-up, a special mouthrinse and toothpaste is recommended, along with specific home care, often with a rotary toothbrush and toothpicks, floss or specific brushes which clean between the teeth. Special oral pro-biotics dissolved once a day are also valuable. These lightly flavored wafers flood your mouth with good bacteria, leaving no room for the bad bacteria to take hold. This minty wafer pro-biotic also prevents tooth decay and whitens your teeth at the same time!
Are you “Certified Kissable”?
Unfortunately, once you’ve been diagnosed with gum disease, you’ll always be at risk for recurrence. Your dentist and/or hygienist will monitor your gum health with professional preventive treatment. Periodontal disease doesn’t have to be a death sentence for you or your teeth. But diligence is always necessary because, as scientific research shows, we can go from healthy gums to diseased gums within 36 hours of neglect. Think about it—what other part of our body requires such diligent care in order to prevent a disease state from occurring?
Is it time for your next dental visit? Your health – your life –may depend on it. Call the dental office of your choice today. Make sure your smile is “Certified Kissable.”