About Periodontal Disease
According to the American Dental Association approximately 75% of our over twenty population has periodontal problems. Based on my practice, and speaking to dentists around the country, I believe this figure is closer to 90%. In either case, these statistics have widespread implications for our general population.
Do your gums bleed? Are they red or puffy? Has you dentist ever told you that you need to brush better or see the hygienist more frequently? If your answer to any of these questions is “yes”, then you have some form of periodontal or gum disease.
What exactly is periodontal disease? As part of the answer, we need to understand how teeth are held in the mouth.. Teeth are not embedded in the jawbones but are totally surrounded by tissue called the periodontal membrane. Each tooth is totally surrounded by this tissue. The tissue acts as a shock absorber for the tooth.
Periodontal membrane is actually a continuation of the gum tissue that covers all the bone and tooth parts in the mouth with the exception of the crown of the tooth (the part we see).The periodontal membrane has thousands of tiny fibers called periodontal ligaments that go from the membrane and attach to the tooth and the bone.
In a normal healthy mouth there is always a slight space between the tooth and the bone called a pocket, which is usually about 1-2mm (about an eight of an inch).
Poor oral hygiene will allow plaque, or hard deposits to form on the teeth. These deposits allow for the growth of bacteria that cause inflammation of the gum tissue. The bacteria also release minute amounts of toxins that help break down the tissue, helping the infection to progress. As the infection progresses, the gum tissue becomes red instead of its normal healthy pink color and will get puffy. As the infection continues, bleeding will occur, especially when you floss or brush. Aside from these effects the bacteria migrate into the pocket and begin to destroy the periodontal membrane. The toxins produced by the bacteria will also destroy the bone in the immediate area. The process can be seen by a deepening of the normal healthy pocket from 1 to 2mm to 3 to 4mm and in severe cases 7 to l0mm or more. The effect of this over a period of time, is that the teeth involved are loosened and will eventually fall out. The supporting structures, (the periodontal ligaments) having been completely destroyed at this stage
Periodontal disease is a symptom of the body being in trouble. There are commercials on television that show how all the germs in the mouth are killed when certain mouthwashes are used. The problem is that the germs will be back within a few hours. The bacteria that are being killed are part of the normal population that is always present. Disease is not due to the presence of bacteria, but rather to the body being out of balance in such a way that the bacteria responsible for the inflammation are breeding out of proportion. Killing the bacteria is not the answer. Placing the body back in balance is a much more effective method of treatment.
Stress will also play a major part in the development of periodontal disease. High stress levels cause a lowering of the immune system response and will deplete the body of many valuable minerals and vitamins that are needed for general maintenance and repair.
When your diet is not what it should be, or stress is present, or you have a combination of both of these factors, the body will react. There are a number of bacteria that live in the mouth, some good, some harmless and some harmful. When you are healthy, the bacterial populations are kept in balance. Your healthy immune system has no problem dealing with this low level of harmful bacteria. When your general health starts to change for the worse, the mouth chemistry changes. Minerals that are in solution in saliva tend to precipitate out and form deposits on the base of the teeth. These mineral deposits are called plaque. The harmful bacteria are now finding that the mouth, is a great place to breed and they start to increase in number. The deposits of plaque tend to protect the bacteria, which lodge in the pockets around the teeth and the infection process begins.
Holistic Treatment of Periodontal Disease
Traditional treatment for periodontal disease involves surgical removal of the infected tissue and antibiotics. There are problems with these treatments. Surgery is a very painful and expensive procedure that many people will need to have redone within five years because it removes the symptom rather then the cause. The problem with antibiotics is that a person can become sensitized to the antibiotic; the weaker bacteria are killed off while the stronger bacteria become resistant to the antibiotic. This is happening throughout the medical world.
There are other methods to control periodontal disease that are safer, less expensive and more natural. While periodontal disease has generally been considered a local problem, holistic methods of treatment, with the help of modern medical research, are showing that this is not the case.
My philosophy has always been “keep it simple.” The least invasive procedure should always be done first. Since our office has been treating even advanced cases non-surgically, surgery is never considered during the first six months of therapy.
Scaling and root planing are necessary to break up the mats of bacteria and to remove most of the tarter and calculus that is adhering to the teeth. No matter what procedures are used all the calculus is never removed. The point is that when debris and bacteria are taken away, the area can be kept clean and healthy by repeated irrigations.
Home care is ongoing from the beginning of therapy. Self-treatment is the most important part of the entire process. Repeated treatments are successful only if the patient is doing what is required on a daily basis to facilitate the removal of the diseased state.
All of this is important because many problems with health can arise due to habitual eating habits. For instance, if you are eating a high protein meal shortly before bedtime, you can easily put yourself into an acid condition. This will lead to a shift in your mineral balance and could cause a host of health problems.
Diet & Supplementation to Assist in Healing Periodontal Disease
Nutritional therapy consists of diet analysis, and supplementation starting with our periodontal products and followed by vitalboost. We have added in office testing for the presence of pathological bacteria. We are also testing for C-reactive protein levels.
What is C-Reactive Protein and How Does it Affect Oral-Systemic Dentistry?
C-Reactive Protein (CRP) is a substance made by the liver in response to inflammation anywhere in the body. It is measured by the mg. of CRP per liter of blood. This is important because this indicator has been shown to be more predictive of heart attacks than high cholesterol.
Some other basic things you should know about CRP are:
- Periodontal disease has been shown to significantly increase CRP levels, thereby increasing heart attack risk.
- Treatment of periodontal disease has been shown to reduce CRP, thereby lowering heart attack risk.
- Ultra-High CRP can warn a doctor of serious disease including cancer, thereby saving lives.
Lasers currently used in dentistry for the treatment of periodontal disease exert their bacterial reduction effect through Photothermal means. 4 Used well below the surgical parameters employed by other laser therapies, dental lasers deliver light energy locally to the infected site to eradicate the bacteria by causing a rupture of the cell wall. Laser energy is delivered by light to which there are no contra-indications and to which the bacteria cannot develop a resistance to.
What Are the Benefits to Having Laser Surgery Performed? If you are one of the millions of adults that suffer from periodontal disease there are a number of benefits that you will likely find:
- A decrease in the inflammation in your mouth
- Elimination of the infection associated with gum disease
- A reduction in bleeding gums
- Decrease probing depths (easier to keep clean at home)
- Reduce the severity of loose teeth
- Reduce the bacterial count within the pocket
- Coagulate only the diseased tissue for removal
- Have a bio-stimulatory effect for better healing
- Reduce the need for chemotherapeutics
While laser therapy isn’t magical, it creates an environment that allows your body to finally heal itself. Best of all there is:
- Little to no discomfort. Patients typically say that they have little to no pain, during or after treatment.
- Gum recession is actually reduced while the swelling of the area from the inflammation is being relieved
- Many patients find that they have less than a 24 hour recovery period, so time is not lost from work. In most cases, patients feel fine right after the procedure.
- Wilson,T and Kornman K, Fundamentals of Periodontics, Quintessence books 1996, pg 17-27 IBID pgs 47-61 IBID pgs 471-484
- Page M, Your Body is Your Best Doctor, Keats Pub. 1972 pas 112-115
- Genco, RJ Destefano F and Kahn H. Dental disease and risk of coronary .heart disease and mortality Br Med Jr 1993 688-691 Biomedical and Clinical Aspects of Coenzyme Q 10 1977 vol 1 Biomedical and Clinical aspects of Coenzyme Q 10 1984 vol
- Zeines V, Nutrition Eases Dental Problems Jour Nut Consult. May 1980 Wilson ,T and Kornman K, Foundamentals of Periodontics Quintessence Books 1996 pg 250 Mindell E, Herbs Simon& Schuster 1992
- Lust J, The Herb Book Bantrom Books 1974 Burton Goldberg group, Alternative Medicine 1995