Is Gum Disease Killing You?
Your gum and periodontal health is crucial to you overall health. Your gums and the bone around the teeth and the connective tissues are connected by direct pathways to other areas of your body. The blood that supplies your gums circulates around your whole body. This means if you have gum disease your blood is carrying mouth bacteria, infection and inflammation everywhere else in your body. We have known this fact since the 1800’s.
This is migration of disease through your body just like how cancers spread; the bacteria from the gums metastasize and seed disease in other places.
The bacteria in plaque activate your immune system to fight the inflammation they cause. This triggers your body to release different proteins, like cytokines to help defend the body. The bacteria can directly infect the blood and cause bacteremia (blood poisoning), which can make you feel very unwell or cause low-grade malaise.
Inflammation is a normal bodily process that is provoked by injury, it is your body’s response to repair and heal itself and short term or what is called acute inflammation it is a good thing.
However, when inflammation is ongoing and prolonged, what we call chronic, it actually becomes very damaging to the body. When inflammation is revved up and gets stuck in the on position by something that is triggering it say like having a sprained ankle that you insist on running on rather than resting, it takes much longer to switch off and for your body to heal from the cycle of inflammation and damage.
In periodontal disease the chronic nature of the disease process creates a perpetual, worsening cycle in your body. The chronic bacterial infection triggers chronic inflammation and you will see an increase in inflammatory markers in the body like C-reactive protein.
C reactive protein is one of the signs for heart disease and is actually a better predictor of heart disease than cholesterol levels.
CRP is created in your liver it’s job is to fight inflammation that occurs from any cause. Successful treatment of periodontal disease reduces inflammation, stops bacteria travelling into your body and thus can lower your CRP and hence at the same time your risk for heart attack decreases. In fact treating periodontal disease reduces heart attack risk far more significantly than by taking prescription medication.
This process of increasing CRP due to inflammation is how chronic periodontal disease plays a role in the development of coronary artery disease and hardening of the arteries. Periodontal disease increases your risk of stroke and heart attack.
If you have been diagnosed with cancer you should consider if periodontal disease is playing a role. Research has linked gum disease to oral cancer, oesophageal and gut cancers, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and even bowel cancers.
Another systemic disease associated with periodontal disease is diabetes. The inflammation response is similar in diabetes and periodontal disease; both cause poor healing and increased susceptibility to infections. Obesity and type 2 diabetes are also associated with insulin resistance, high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries.
Chronic inflammation has been declared part of the insulin resistance syndrome and can make metabolic disorders like diabetes grow worse.
Inflammation is even a factor is Alzheimer’s disease and there are links between the incidence of periodontal disease and people with Alzheimer’s. That’s because infection in your body can affect your central nervous system.
Periodontal disease is linked to rheumatoid arthritis and arthritic conditions. People with rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to have periodontal disease or a complete loss of their teeth.
And that’s why I and my team at Evolve Dental Healing always take gum disease seriously and so should you when you see signs of swollen, red or bleeding gums because chronic periodontal disease can turn into a much more serious problems that can destroy your health, quality of life and shorten your lifespan.
The good news is that periodontal disease can be treated. The goal is to reduce your gum inflammation, support your gums to heal, reduce the amount of harmful bacteria in your mouth, bring down your C-reactive protein levels, and hence improve your overall health.
We want you to keep your teeth and to do this we need to remove that biofilm of plaque bacteria and tartar and support you to have a better mouth environment by utilizing things like ozone therapy, lasers, supplements and nutrients and lifestyle changes.
Our aim is to provide the least invasive procedures to give the most effective results whilst being kind to the body with treatments that are less painful than the traditional method of gum surgery.
The area of the mouth affected by periodontal disease is treated with a local anaesthetic beforehand and this means that you have a much more comfortable experience and a speedier recovery.
We can treat periodontal disease at any stage the key is to put a halt to the destructive inflammation, allow your gums to heal and then maintain that gum health with regular professional care to help keep the disease in remission.
It is very important even once the gum disease is addressed to ensure that the forces of your bite are correctly balanced as damage from the uneven pressures on your teeth means that treatment will not have an optimal outcome and only result in short term benefits.
So I recommend gum therapy and bite therapy to address both issues simultaneously for an effective solution.
It is important to have regular follow up and review to monitor your healing and have periodic maintenance visits to stop the bacterial build up switching on active disease again.
If periodontal disease is left and not treated you will eventually lose the teeth that are affected. How and when that happens depends on your overall health and the strength of your bones. Yes we can replace missing teeth but in periodontal disease you have often lost so much bone that it makes it very challenging and compromises our ability to provide you with an effective, comfortable and affordable solution.
Once you start losing teeth the remaining ones now have to do more work so they are already stressed and overworked and then they have even more to cope with to support your dental prosthesis as well.
Dentures may seem like a quick and simple solution however they are generally difficult to get used to and only perform at 25 percent of the effectiveness of your natural teeth. Hence you lose 75 percent of your chewing capacity.
The goal in holistic dentistry is to save your teeth and treat your gums so that periodontal disease doesn’t ruin your health by provoking inflammation elsewhere in your body. Keeping your teeth and gums clean can prevent a host of systemic diseases whereas letting that periodontal disease spread can worsen your condition.
Periodontal disease is very treatable so you owe it to yourself to take care of it now and to take care of it properly and effectively.
A 10-minute ‘clean’ and polish with your dentist once or twice a year is not an effective treatment for periodontal disease. Once you have periodontal disease you need a course of gum therapy that involves working closely with a skilled dental hygienist who will spend several hours (yes hours!) over the course of your treatment regime to get your gums healthy and halt that destructive inflammation.
Your gum health needs to be thoroughly and accurately assessed with proper diagnosis and gum measurements to ascertain the level of active disease and inflammation then a plan of action should be tailored to your gum condition.
I firmly believe we should be focusing on treating disease not cleaning teeth and it is our role to help you to avoid developing health conditions that could have been prevented through better management and treatment of your periodontal disease and lifestyle changes.
Please don’t ignore red, swollen, bleeding gums, bad breath or teeth that are moving or getting loose – these are all warning signs of gum disease and need to be addressed before it is too late for your teeth and your health.
Has it been 6 months or more since your last dental visit? Do your gums bleed when you brush or floss? Are you concerned about your dental health? Call us now to book a full mouth health check 07 3720 1811