In United States, about 80% of the population has some sort of gum disease. If you think about, that means 4 out of 5 people have some sort of gum inflamation or infection, bad breath, mobile teeth, pus coming out through the gums, etc…
One interesting characteristic of gum disease is that it is not age specific, meaning that is not more prevalent in some ages than others.
What is Gum Disease?
Basically gum disease is the inflamation of the tooth supporting structures(gums, alveolar bone and fibers).
If the inflamation reached the gums only, without involving the fibers and alveolar bone, the condition is called Gingivitis. When the inflamation reaches deeper into the bone and fibers( followed by their destruction), the condition is called Periodontitis. There are many subclasifications of those conditions, but they are beyond the scope of this blog to be mentioned.
What are the implications of having gum disease?
The main reason why the patients show up for a consult to the dentist is bad breath(halitosis). Either someone close to them told them(spouses, kids, parents, friends, …) or it became so bad that the patients can smell it themselves. Typically, they are not straight forward with the dentist either, they usually mention something like “bad taste in my mouth”, “I feel that my mouth is always charged”, “I cannot get my mouth to be clean even if I brush and floss”, “red gums”, “bleeding gums”, etc…When the dentist mentions “Bad Breath?” they say “yes, that one also”.
Bad Breath coming from gum disease has a very typical, aggressive smell. People can have bad breath from other conditions like medications, systemic diseases, postnasal drip, sinus infections, colds, etc…, but the gum disease caused halitosis is the most noticed by others because of its intensity. Usually the halitosis caused by other conditions than periodontitis, goes away with brushing, flossing , rinsing and stays away for a long time. The one caused by gum disese comes back in less than 10 min despite all the fancy oral care products used.
Why does this happen?
As mentioned earlier, gum disese is the breakdown of the tooth supporting structures. When the gums, ligaments and bone break down, they are not tightly attached to the teeth. By not being so, they allow bacteria, saliva and food debris to get in the space between the teeth and gums. From there they get fermented by a very toxic bacteria and the end result, the pus, leaks into the patient’s mouth(causing the continuous bad breath) and into the blood stream going to different target organs. The main target organs are: Heart Valves, Kidneys, Pancreas, Joints and Blood Vasels.
How are the Target Organs Affected by the Gum Disease Pus?
Directly: From under the gums, the pus( which is a blend of bacterias, bacterial toxins, dead bacterias and dead white blood cells) goes into the blood stream and attaches to those target organs, chronically damaging them. The signes of damage are not noticed by the patient until later on.
Indirectly: While in the bloos stream, the pus creates an immune reaction from the body. Because that pus is released into the blood stream continuously, the immune system is continuously hyped up for a long time leading to the attack of the body stuctures by the immune system. So because the immune system is so activates, it attacks the heart, arteries, kidneys, pancreas, even the gums without differentiation. All this attack contributes to the worsening of the gum disease and the worsening of the function of the target organs.
Other Diseases Related to Gum Disease:
There’s a lot of research on the relationship between gum disease and other systemic diseases. The conclusion is that gum disease seems to contribute to the following:
Diabetes: the cause-effect relationship with diabetes is both ways. Uncontrolled diabetes makes the gum disease harder to treat, but on same token, severe gum disease makes blood sugar harder to control in diabetics.
Heart Attack: the leaking pus from the infected gums goes into the blood stream and attaches to the heart valves building bacterial colonies, which make the heart valves less flexible, stiffer, not being able to seal the heart chambers as well. This leads to the heart needing to work harder to compensate.
Pancreatic Cancer: After eliminating the age and smoking as risk factors for pancreatic cancer, patients with gum disease are 63% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.
Osteoporosis: there’s a two eay relationship also. Patients with osteoporosis are more likely to get gum disease, but also the uncontrolled gum disease can worsen the osteoporosis.
Stroke: Because in patients with gum disese the immune system is overactive, it starts attacking other organs. One class of organs is the arteries. By attacking them, the immune system creates damges to the arteries, which the body tries to heal. One mechanism that the body uses for healing is depositing colesterol and calcium to plug the damaged artery. This is called colesterol plaque or ateromas. The problem with ateromas is that they once formed, tend to become bigger and bigger, at some point either completely obstructing the blood vasel or dethaching from the original point and moving upstream where it will obstruct the first artery smaller than its diameter. Those two mechanisms are the two main mechanisms for heart attacks and strokes.
Premature Birth: it was known that pregnant women consuming alcohol and/or smoking are at risk to have a premature birth. But also, 18% of pregnant women( with no alcohol consumption or smoking) who had a premature birth had gum disease.
How Can Gum Disease Be Prevented?
Prevention sounds too easy for some patients to follow: brush and floss twice a day, see the dentist for a professional cleaning twice a year and have healthy lifestyle with less stress.
How Can Gum Disease Be Treated?
Treatment is also easy. The patient need to have a Deep Cleaning(Perio Scaling and Root Planning) done followed by antibiotic therapy, change of habits on the oral hygiene and to see the dentist for a cleaning every 3 months. The cost of the gum disese treatment is less than the cost of a crown. But even so, I am puzzled when patients come in with gum disese, they had not seen a dentist in many years, the bad breath is repulsive, they know it, gums are bleeding, they feel depressed, sick and tired, but when presented the easy solution for their condition, they say” Well, Doc, I need to think about”. My next question is” Think about what?”. They say”If I want to do it”. This is the most shocking answer a doctor can get.
If you feel that you have bad breath, feel tired, depressed, your gums bleed easily, teeth are mobile, feel free to call my Washington Township NJ 08080 Dental Office, Sewell Dental Arts to request a FREE CONSULTATION. I will be happy to meet you and talk to you about how you can be helped.