Our Approach to Gum Disease
In dentistry, gum disease is usually thought of as a war against bacteria, and the weapons used are tools to eliminate these germs.
Common procedures to do this are various types of deep cleaning, sometimes including surgery, and often including the use of antibiotics or antimicrobials.
What this approach misses is that the signs of gum disease–the presence of all these bacteria–is really an indication that the environment of the mouth has come out of healthy balance, and if nothing is done to correct this problem, the gum disease will come back again and again, despite the cleanings, surgeries or antibiotics.
A microscopic view of gum disease looks like this:
Bacteria of different sizes and shapes, growing on the root surfaces of a tooth.
This microscopic view resembles an underwater coral reef:
Each is an ecosystem in balance. Any disturbance in that balance, for good or for bad, will change the ecosystem. Humans can remove reefs to build pathways for ships. But if the water is clean and filled with fish and nutrients, the coral reef will grow right back.
The germs that we find on the roots of teeth are also in balance with the ecosystem of the mouth. If we remove those germs and do not alter the underlying conditions that allowed them to grow there in the first place then the conditions will remain healthy for these germs and they will just grow right back.
The ecosystem of the mouth can also be compared to a lawn —
A lawn can be made weed free by giving it good, natural fertilizer, making sure that it gets sunlight and water, and occasionally removing the few weeds that do sprout up.
A lawn can also be made weed free by spraying it with a chemical that selectively kills weeds. It will become weed free, but it will not be healthy, and sooner or later a new weed will take hold that is resistant to the chemical weedkiller.
We approach gum disease like a natural gardener would tend her garden. We consider the issues that strengthen the ecosystem of the mouth and address each of them, so that the mouth becomes stronger and healthier as time goes on.
We have found four main factors that contribute to a healthy mouth. We call them…
The Four Pillars of Health
Mechanics – An often overlooked stressor in gum disease is mechanical stress. Simply put, if teeth have been weakened by gum disease, and if any upper and lower tooth meet at a stressful angle, chewing forces will make the gum disease worse.
A comprehensive dental examination that includes a thorough analysis of your bite. Most often these stresses are corrected by a procedure known as bite balancing (or “occlusal equilibration”), but may require other restorative dentistry, particularly if there are missing teeth.
Nutrition- Diets high in refined sugars and starches lack trace minerals and antioxidant vitamins that are essential to building healthy gums and teeth. Also, these kinds of foods are often mushy, requiring very little chewing. So the teeth and gums don’t get the same healthy stimulation that comes from chewing harder things. Lastly, these foods are exactly the kinds that leave behind the sticky film of plaque that serves as the prime food source for all mouth germs.
The best approach begins by eating more fruits and vegetables, especially if this has not been a lifetime habit. A good way to jump-start the benefits of improved nutrition in the face of gum disease is to begin a daily supplementation with the following (in addition to a good daily multivitamin)
Is a powerful antioxidant that helps gums to be tougher. It is especially needed for people whose gums bleed a lot.
1000mg per day.
Is also a powerful antioxidant and is key to helping your cells manufacture the energy that they need to grow, repair, and defend themselves
60 mg per day for most people.
For smokers or diabetics, take 120 mg per day.
Gum disease is epidemic in cocaine addicts, where this drug constricts the fine blood vessels that feed the gums.
Yet, it is non-existent in marathon runners whose patterns of exercise pump huge amounts of oxygen-rich blood into these same blood vessels. The germs that bring on gum disease thrive in oxygen poor environments and die in oxygen rich environments. So if you want to get serious about beating gum disease
Any exercise that gets your heart rate up, gets you breathing hard, and causes you to break a sweat. Best: Two to Four times per week for 45 minutes to one hour at a time. Run, bike, tennis, dance, aerobics, etc. In addition, Type-A, high stress people with gum disease will need a daily relaxation practice such as meditation, yoga, or Tai Chi Chuan in order for the fine blood vessels of the jaws to relax and permit a healthy flow.
Hygiene–Nothing can take the place of good toothbrushing and flossing technique, performed daily, as often as needed to keep your mouth clean. People who consume a lot of refined sugars and starches will need to brush and floss more often than those who eat less of these foods. I do feel that a good electric toothbrush, such as the Sonicare, can help a person improve their oral hygiene. Also the WaterPik appliance is a great aid for patients with gum disease as the water jet stimulates the blood circulation in the gums.
Begin to develop a sense of when your teeth feel squeaky clean to your tongue. If after a snack or a meal your teeth feel ‘furry’, then you need to brush and floss.