Periodontal disease is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gum and bone supporting the teeth. This disease process is the body’s inflammatory response to the bacteria in your mouth. The American Academy of Periodontology reports that up to 75% of all Americans over the age of 35 are believed to have some form of periodontal disease.
Like other chronic degenerative diseases such as diabetes; periodontal disease is thought to not be curable! But the good news is that it can be prevented and managed. If uncontrolled, tooth loss and other complications could occur. But to control the disease, it is important that the patient is fully aware of what causes the disease and take an active role in its prevention and treatment. Each individual has their own unique immune system to help fight disease and may react differently to the bacteria present in their mouth.
A holistic approach which considers the complete patient (mind-body-soul) may provide the best means to manage the disease.
The villain in this story is the bacterial plaque which forms a biofilm that firmly attaches to the teeth and gets under the gums. An approach that employs initial complete removal of deposits, followed by coaching to help the patient remove it on a daily basis may provide the best means to restoring a mouth to health.
Controlling this disease is also important for your overall health. It may be remembered that the same blood that flows through your gums and teeth also travels through your heart, lungs and the rest of your body. So if bacteria and inflammation are present in your gums, it may also trigger other inflammatory events such as heart disease!
It seems appropriate for a perspective patient who is entertaining the thought of joining our practice to have some idea of the belief system within the organization.
Below are listed our top ten beliefs and to the best of our ability we attempt to live these beliefs day in and day out.
- That all who enter our practice will be treated with respect and dignity
- That each person who enters will be treated as an individual, with unique goals and desires.
- That given the correct information within a caring relationship, we will make decisions about our health that are in our best interests.
- That each individual should know:
- The state of their oral conditions
- The choices for treating those conditions
- The consequences of those choices
- The cost of the treatment prior to beginning
- That our teeth are meant to last a lifetime.
- That all disease is preventable.
- That it is better to prevent than to treat a problem.
- That it is better to treat the cause and not just the symptoms of a problem.
- That the health of the mouth can affect the overall health of the body.
- That we are responsible for our own health.
Holistic because we believe the health of the mouth and our overall health cannot be separated. The term biologic may apply because we strive to find new and better ways to help individuals get and stay healthy, and always seeking materials and techniques that are as biocompatible as possible, while at the same time providing for durability, longevity and conservatism.
The term holistic emphasizes the importance of the whole and the interdependence of its parts. Relative to the practice of dentistry, there is no recognized specialty that would allow one to be called a holistic dentist thus the use of the term holistically inclined approach to the practice of dentistry.
We must remember the same blood that flows through the brain, heart, liver, muscles, etc also flows into the teeth and gums. No part of the body functions alone and independent instead functions as a whole. This is also true at a cellular level, thus to think that an infected tooth or gum around the tooth can influence things at a cellular level throughout the body, truly raises the importance of how we care for our mouth.
Even with this understanding, we often times see the medical system moving away from the holistic approach to a more “parts” orientation, where more and more treatment is directed at the symptoms of disease rather than its cause.
So when we approach the practice of dentistry from a holistic/biologic point of view it just makes sense that the patient be invited into all discussions that must be made in developing appropriate treatment plans. To the degree the patient is involved in deciding what treatment will be rendered and specifically what techniques and materials will be used, the greater the chance that the patient will have control over what is being done and placed in their bodies.
The Importance of Flossing
For many years we have known about the connection between the health of your mouth and your overall health. Since 1997, studies have shown that the underlying factor in heart disease is chronic inflammation, including chronic inflammation of the gums. This knowledge has changed the way modern dental practices have operated, and the way we look at chronic dental problems such as periodontal disease (gum disease).
Even though it is often painless, gum disease is the main reason for tooth loss in adults. The real culprit is plaque. Plaque is the sticky, bacteria-laden film that collects on your teeth. Without proper removal of plaque on a daily basis, this film layer builds up, allowing the bacteria to grown and thrive, creating chronic infection in your gums.
The body responds to the unwanted bacteria by producing inflammatory response to fight off the bacteria. Evidence of this inflammation is when gums bleed. Other unpleasant symptoms include: bad breath, swollen, tender, red gums, loose teeth or teeth that are moving apart.
The teeth and gums are not an isolated compartment, but rather an integral part of a bigger system. The same blood that flows through the gums and teeth also flows through your heart, brain, lungs, etc.
A report in the March 19, 2013 issue of Circulation, an American Heart Association Journal, states: “Dental infection and oral bacteria, especially viridans streptococci, may be associated with the development of acute coronary thrombosis (heart attack). The same article also states, “Poor dental health has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Chronic periodontal infection especially, has been associated with the risk of acute myocardial infarction (MI) and coronary heart disease. In addition, the researcher found that periodontal disease was a significant independent risk factor for peripheral vascular disease.”
A recent publicized article in many media outlets questioned the value of flossing. This may have sent an irresponsible message that proper oral hygiene, including plaque removal by flossing, is not necessary. I feel this is inaccurate and does a disservice to the health of the general public.
Proper flossing technique, which includes flossing the entire tooth and below the gum line, will remove bacterial plaque. This daily removal of plaque is the standard for creating health in our patients.
I believe taking responsibility for one’s health is critical, especially at a time when healthcare is in such a state of flux. It has been stated that it is easier to “stay well than to get well”.
Creating the habit of proper daily dental hygiene, including proper flossing, you can create health and indeed save your life!
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