Gum Disease and the Overall Health Connection
Gums are just like skin but on the inside. The gums cover and protect the teeth and jaw bone, and keep bacteria and other invaders from getting into the body.
They can be damaged and cut, infected, and get diseases just like your skin. If the gums are damaged or diseased, they can't do a very good job of protecting what's below and inside.
These gums are a part of the entire digestive system. The digestive system is a long tube that starts in the sinus cavities and nose and ends at the other end in the rectum. If there is infection anywhere along that system, the entire system affected.
Many people suffer from digestive problems, and a big component of that is your gum health. Gum disease is the most common infection in the world, with estimates up to 80% of adults having some degree of infection in their gums. If you want to heal your gut and your body, you need to heal your gums.
Jamie had always been a get-up-and-go kind of woman. Raising three girls of her own, running multiple businesses with her husband, and being a fabulous homemaker were all parts of her normal day.
Over the years she found she wasn’t able to do all that she once could, but she thought it was part of getting older. Even though she was careful about what she was eating, she started gaining weight and couldn’t get it off. She was slowing down and started having aches and pains. And, the most worrisome part, she lost a few teeth that just got loose and came out.
Not knowing where to go, she visited a traditional dentist, who chastised her for not brushing her teeth well enough. Embarrassed and discouraged, she avoideddentists and doctors for years until she was diagnosed with Type II diabetes and the pain in her body pushed her to do something.
She came to my office and we found Stage Four gum disease along with advanced digestive and arthritic problems that related to the gum disease. After treatment
to clean the teeth, kill the microbes with laser and ozone and nutrition that rebuilt her bone and gums, the gum disease resolved. Treatment for her gut also helped her digestive symptoms, symptoms, helped her reverse her diabetes, allowed her to lose some weight and she is back on the road to feeling great again.
Gum recession is something I check every time I complete an exam for a patient. Why?…
It’s kind of like checking the pressure in your car tires. It’s a measuring stick for the health of the mouth, and if you find something a little off, you can quickly correct it before you get a flat tire!
There are two main reasons your gums may start to recede, and neither of them has to do with brushing too hard or getting older.
I bet at least 50% of the new patients I see with receding gums tell me a former dentist told them they were brushing their teeth too hard, and that is the reason for the gum problem.
The other 50% tell me they are just getting older and receding gums comes with the territory. I’m going to loudly disagree! Let’s talk about the real problems which are Gum Disease and An Unbalanced Bite.
The two basic categories of gum disease are Gingivitis and Periodontitis.
Gingivitis – the official name for the gums is “gingiva”. And “it is” always means inflammation. So gingivitis means inflammation of the gums.
• This is the early stage of Gum Disease where the gums bleed easily and are swollen, but the disease has not progressed to the jawbone.
Periodontitis – Remember the ligament that connects your tooth to the bone? It’s called the periodontal ligament. This disease is inflammation of the periodontal ligament and the bone beneath. Periodontitis is inflammation of the bone and the gums.
• This is Stage 2-4 gum disease when the disease has progressed into the bone and there has been early to advanced bone loss, threatening the tooth and your overall health.
What causes these diseases?
Bacteria: The bacteria in your mouth like to congregate together. They live in the sticky substance on your teeth and tongue called plaque. The longer they stay in one place, the stickier these colonies get and more bacteria can join them.
Just as in any large city, the more bacteria that crowd together, the more garbage they create. It’s the garbage (toxins) that inflame the gums.
Pay attention to where the plaque sticks. You’ll see it’s right around the gum line. If the plaque stays there for longer than a few days, the toxins start to damage the fragile gum tissue.
Your body, always on guard, sends it’s warriors there to battle this attack. That’s what inflammation is, simply your body’s reaction to a foreign invader. This inflammation is called gingivitis.
Nutrition: There is another component to gum disease that has very little to do with bacteria. Early in the 19th century, sailors were stricken with scurvy as they sailed across the ocean with a very limited diet. One of the most prominent symptoms of scurvy is bleeding gums and loose teeth.
What was missing in these sailor’s diets? Vitamin C.1 If a Vitamin C deficiency could create a disease condition in the gums and bone, it’s obvious that nutrition plays a part in gum and bone health.
While bacteria and nutrition are the primary cause of gum disease, there are other factors that contribute. These include:
- Hormonal changes, such as those occurring during pregnancy, puberty, menopause, and monthly menstruation, make the blood supply in the gum tissues more inflamed and the gums are more prone to bleeding and soreness.
- Illnesses may affect the condition of your gums. This includes diseases such as cancer or autoimmune disease that interfere with the immune system. Diabetes affects the body’s ability to use blood sugar, so patients with this disease are at higher risk of developing infections, including periodontal disease and cavities.
- Medications can affect oral health because some decrease the flow of saliva, which has a protective effect on teeth and gums. Some drugs, such as the medication for epilepsy called Dilantin and some heart medications can lead to overgrowth of gum tissue.
- Bad habits such as smoking make it harder for gum tissue to repair itself.
- The Family history of dental disease can be a contributing factor in the development of gingivitis.
Incidence and Progression of Gum Disease
The startling fact is that more than 50% of the adult population in the US has some level of periodontal disease. That means that one out of every two people has this infection. If left untreated, it can lead to inflammation and disease throughout the body.
Although most adults have some level of gum disease, very few people know it’s there.4 Gingivitis is usually not painful. The gums turn red, they bleed when you brush, but they often don’t hurt. The early warning system of pain is missing for this disease, which makes it more dangerous.
If the plaque stays there long enough, excess calcium in the blood starts to combine with the plaque and a hard substance called calculus or tartar is formed on the teeth.
Now the bacteria are really happy! The calculus is like condos for those bacteria to live in. You can’t brush tartar off, so they can live there a long time, continuing to drop their garbage onto the gums.
After a while, the immune system figures out that this invader isn’t going away, so it tells the gums to retreat. The periodontal ligament starts to come loose from the tooth, and the gums start to recede down the tooth.
This opens up a pathway for the bacterial toxins to get to the bone beneath, which causes the bone to get infected and to start to recede as well. The gums are lost, the bone is lost, and eventually, the tooth gets loose and can come out.
What a sorry tale! And most of it happens with no pain. I’ve often called periodontal disease the silent and deadly killer of teeth. Some warning signs are bleeding gums when you brush, a bad taste in your mouth, loose teeth, and bad breath. If you have any of these, run, don’t walk to the dentist! You don’t have any time to lose!
Overall Health Effects of Periodontal Disease
Periodontal Disease is not something to wait on, because decades of scientific research have connected periodontal (gum) disease with other disease-including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, kidney and lung disease, cancer, infertility, erectile dysfunction, preterm birth, and other pregnancy complications.
People with periodontal disease have a 2x higher risk of dying from heart disease and a 3x higher risk of dying from a stroke.
There is a significant connection between periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
There is a 64% increased risk of pancreatic cancer in those with periodontal disease
–Harvard and Dana Farber Cancer Institute
Breast cancer is linked to periodontal disease
–American Cancer Association
Diagnosis of Periodontal Disease
The health of your gums and bone should be measured at every cleaning, or what we call your “wellness visit”. There is a natural pocket between the tooth and gum that is 2-3 millimeters deep.
A special measuring tool is placed in this pocket to measure the depth of it. If it is deeper than 3 millimeters, that is a sign that disease has ALREADY happened.
Bone has already been destroyed and the disease has progressed and has caused or is causing damage NOW. You should not wait to begin treatment as each day leads to further effects in the mouth and in the body.
Periodontal Bacteria and Systemic Disease
Infertility & Erectile Dysfunction
Coronary Artery Disease
Upper Respiratory Infection
Over 43* areas of health are directly impacted by periodontal disease.
Other Diagnostic Testing
Bacterial testing: A Phase Contrast Microscope can be used to test for Microbes in your gums. It is not possible to identify specific microbes through this screening, but general types of microbes can be seen, and this can determine numbers of bacteria and the severity of your infection.
DNA testing: There are a few specialized laboratories in the country that can perform DNA test on a bacterial sample taken from the pocket around your teeth. This test can help identify specific microbes so treatment can be targeted specifically.
Blood Testing: Your biologic dentist may recommended Blood testing to identify any nutritional or overall health markers that could be contributing to or influencing your gum and overall health.
Some testing they may request:
- HbA1c and Fasting Blood Glucose– this test shows how your body handles sugars
- Vit D3 (1,25 D hydroxy)– this test identifies your Vitamin D levels which are essential for healthy bone.
- Complete Lipid Panel– commonly known as your cholesterol test, this identifies problems in fatty bone formation.
How Periodontal Disease Progresses
Gingivitis: Stage 1
Plaque and bacteria get into the pocket around your teeth and start infecting your gums. At this stage, there are few signs or symptoms. Some indications of gingivitis include:
- Occasional bad breath
- Redness and swelling of the gums
- Bleeding when flossing
- Gum measurement depths of 2-4 mm
*Note: Bone loss has not yet started. The infection is completely reversible.
Slight and Moderate Periodontal Disease: Stage 2, 3
The infection now extends deeper under your gums and is destroying the supporting bone. Your bacteria types change and cause more bone loss as your pockets get deeper.
At this stage, periodontal disease can remain “silent” with few signs and symptoms. Some signs to look for are:
- Increased redness of gums
- Worsening bad breath
- Bleeding on brushing and flossing
- Slight: Gum measurement depths of 4-5 mm
- Moderate: Gum Measurement depths of 6-7 mm
- Pain is unlikely despite the deeper infection and bone loss
*Note: At this point, harmful oral bacteria are regularly entering your blood stream and stressing your immune system.
Advanced Periodontal Disease: Stage 4
The infection gets deeper into the gums and bone and the bacteria becomes more dangerous. Your teeth will sustain extensive bone loss and
will become loose. Periodontal disease at this stage is no longer “silent”. Some signs include:
- Teeth becoming loose and coming out
- Severe recession of gums with extensive bone loss
- Raised areas of infection in the gums called periodontal abscesses
- Redness, swelling, and oozing gums
- Cold sensitivity and tooth mobility worsens
- Gum measurement depths of 7+ mm
- Pain when chewing
- Severe bad breath
The infection is now so deep that periodontal surgery or periodontal laser therapy is needed to clean out these deeper pockets of bacteria.
Other Problems that Lead to These Symptoms
There are some things that can mimic gum disease. If the bleeding gums and/or loss of bone is only in certain localized areas, it is very possibly a tooth problem. Have your holistic dentist check:
- Defective dental restorations
- High electric current (galvanism) from metal restorations
- Bite problems
- Mercury fillings in the area.
If the gum disease is more generalized but your teeth are “clean” we will check for health problems, including:
- Depressed immune system
- Low Vitamin C
- Poor diet
- Prescription drug problems
- Hormone imbalances
- pH problems in the gut
Treating Gum Disease
Mechanical cleaning– the bacteria in your mouth creates a sticky layer on your teeth that, if not removed, calcifies and forms tartar that can’t be removed on your own. This tartar harbors other, more dangerous bacteria, and has to be removed if your gums and bone are to return to health.
The official name for this treatment is Scaling and Root Planing, and is what is traditionally prescribed if you are diagnosed with gum disease. This cleaning can be done with traditional hand instruments, or with specialized ultrasonic instruments. Both can be utilized to remove all of the hard deposits on your teeth so your gums can heal.
Laser Cleaning and Disinfection– Laser light energy is used to kill microbes over a large area of the infected root, gum tissue and bone. This laser light is tuned into the harmful bacteria in the infected tissue, and up to 99.9% of the disease producing bacteria are killed. In addition to killing the bacteria and infection, the laser also stimulates stem cells in the tissues to form new connective tissues, collagen and bone. Your body can then heal and rebuild these lost tissues.
At the end of treatment, a second laser is used to seal the tissues against the tooth root. This protects the pocket from germs and plaque getting back into the area while it is healing.
Ozone Cleaning and Disinfecting– Ozone is one of the most powerful natural oxidizing agents. It kills bacteria, disinfects, stops bleeding and stimulates wound healing.
Used in a gas or liquid form, it has been shown to reduce bone loss and infection in 80% of periodontal disease areas, often significantly.
In nature, ozone (O3) occurs from atmospheric oxygen (O2). It develops as a result of ultraviolet light (sun) or electric spark discharge (thunderstorm, lightning) from air oxygen. In medicine, a special device generates a mini thunderstorm in a glass tube, and ozone occurs at the end of the tube.
Being a gas, ozone is able to infil- trate the tissues, the smallest fissures, wounds and gum pockets, painlessly and without side effects.
Gum Irrigation– Once the pockets around the teeth are clean, they can be treated with liquid medications to help the tissues heal and regenerate.
This procedure is called pocket irrigation and a variety of herbal and other health-stimulating irrigants can be used. I do not recommend using harsh antimicrobials such as Chlorhexidine, because of possible tissue damage.
Frequency of treatment:
After treatment for gum disease and during your healing period, the gum pocket around your teeth is open and deep, inviting bacteria back in. It takes 90 days for that bacteria to repopulate the gum pocket. You should return for gum maintenance to have those pockets irrigated and cleaned again 60-90 days after your treatment, and every 90 days until your condi- tion stabilizes. At these visits, you will have gum exams where all of the pockets are measured. When the pocket depths decrease and the gums are not bleeding, the disease is no longer progressing and you are regenerating gum and bone.
Nutrition and Supplementation for Gum Disease Treatment
Vitamins and minerals, particularly the fat-soluble vitamins A, D3, E, K2, are essential to gum and bone health. When a diet is devoid of minerals and high in sugar and processed foods, it causes the body chemistry to be out of balance. Particularly the balance of calcium and phosphorus.
This leads to excess calcium in the blood and too little calcium available for the body to use. In this situation, the body has to borrow. If there is not enough calcium for the essential organs to function, they will borrow it from the bone around the teeth. This sets up a weakened system that will quickly become infected.
We see that infection and conclude that gum disease is always an infection caused by bacteria, but poor nutrition set the stage for that infection to occur.
I’ve seen this delicate balance tip so many times in practice. A patient will have a perfect exam one visit, and six months later, will have gum disease. When we start to ask what’s happened in their life in the last six months, we always hear about dietary changes, stress, perhaps illness, and always something that taxed their immune system.
The good news is, I’ve also seen this in reverse. After addressing the causes of the disease, I’ve seen bone regrow and gum tissue heal. The body is a masterpiece and has the ability to heal if we provide the tools and materials it needs.
|Vitamins||Clinical Features of Deficiency|
|A||Reduced saliva, gum overgrowth, oral precancerous areas|
|B1 (Thiamine)||Reduced taste sensation|
|B2 (Riboflavin)||Sores in the corners of the mouth, oral ulcers, swelling and redness of lips, with vertical cracking, burning mouth|
|B3 (Niacin)||Burning mouth, swollen red tongue, flattened gums, excess saliva, sores in the corners of the mouth|
|B6, B12||Dry and sore gums, burning mouth, red beefy tongue, flattened gums, bone loss, bad breath|
|B9 (Folic acid)||Bad breath, gum inflammation|
|C||Oral ulcers, sores in the corners of the mouth, gum loss, burning mouth, gingival inflammation, scurvy, delayed gum healing|
|D||Jaw bone loss, delayed healing after extraction, low jaw bone density|
|K||Low jaw bone density, delayed healing after extraction, soft tissue bleeding|
|Minerals||Clinical Features of Deficiency|
|Iron||Red painful tongue, sores in the corners of the mouth, difficulty swallowing|
|Zinc||Oral ulcers, altered taste sensation, delayed wound healing|
|Calcium||Low jaw bone density, delayed healing after extraction|
At Home Care after Periodontal Treatment
- Electric Toothbrush twice a day for two minutes
- Water Pik once a day for 2 minutes
- Use Herbal Mouthrinse for one minute (Tooth and Gum Tonic is recommended)
- Tongue Scraper every morning and night
- Vit D3/K2
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids
- Cell Salts – Calc Fluor, Calc Phos, Silicea
- Christopher’s Complete Tissue and Bone
- Fulvic and Humic Minerals
Gum Disease Prevention
How do you prevent it? Do everything we talked about in the “Clean The Outside” section of Chapter Four. If you take those few minutes each day, you can prevent most gum disease. Add to that a healthy dose of Vitamin C and the other fat-soluble vitamins from the foods listed in Chapter Five and your gums are nearly disease-proof.
You can also add a therapeutic mouth rinse
Dr. Js Clean and Heal Rinse
- 1 T baking soda
- 1 t sea salt or Himalayan salt
- 2 C water
- 2 T colloidal or nano silver solution (get online. Favorite source is ASAP 10 PPM Silver Sol Immune System Support from American Biotech Labs.)
Mix all ingredients in a glass jar. Use 1 oz to swish with after cleaning your teeth.
Gums and How they Relate to the Bite and the Jaw Joint
This is the second reason you may get receding gums, and the most misunderstood. If you have gum recession in an area that doesn’t have infection, look at the tooth that hits against it when you bite. Does it have recession too?
If so, these teeth are hitting too hard and causing the recession. How does this happen? We need to go back to the farm to explain!
My husband loves to build things with green posts. These are metal posts that are pounded deep into the ground. They can be removed and moved to another area, but not without some work.
To remove the post, you have to hold on to the top and rock the post back and forth. Eventually the soil around the post starts to pull away and part of the post that is underground becomes exposed. The more rocking you do, the more soil falls away and the more loose the post becomes. Eventually enough soil falls away to allow you to pull the post out of the ground.
The same thing happens with teeth. If teeth hit together too hard or at an angle when chewing, the teeth rock. The gums start to pull away from the teeth as they are rocked and part of the root that was below the gum becomes exposed.
The more the rocking happens, the more the gum pulls away and exposes the root. This is called gum recession. The tooth can become loose from this hitting and rocking, and can even be lost.
Most dentists blame this gum recession on you, and say you have been brushing your teeth too hard. When I really started looking at the recession and which teeth it was occurring on, the brushing explanation just didn’t make sense most of the time.
Why would you brush just a few teeth too hard? Also, those teeth are often sensitive, so wouldn’t you stop brushing those teeth too hard if it hurt?
There is damage that can occur from brushing, but the damage happens after the gums have already receded. Remember, the root is covered with cementum that is much softer than enamel. As you brush your teeth, when your brush hits that receded area and the soft root that is exposed, it’s like your car tire falling off a soft shoulder on the road.
It can dig into the tooth, brushing the root surface away and leaving a hole or divot, which dentists call an abrasion. You weren’t brushing too hard; your tooth was too soft.
Why is the recession happening and how to fix it
If the tooth is hitting too hard or at the wrong angle when biting, it needs to be “balanced”. This can be done very simply if only one or a few teeth are involved, by minimally reshaping the teeth to fit together better.
Often the reshaping needs to happen on old dental work—crowns that were built a little too tall or fillings that were too deep or shallow. After the problem is corrected, the root surfaces can be covered.
This exposed root surface can be covered in one of two ways. You can have a dentist cover the root with filling material to protect it from the toothbrush. You can also have a gum specialist cover the root with gums.
One of the most exciting advances in dentistry today is what I call Gum Rejuvenation. Using stem cells and fibrin from your blood, along with a special suturing technique, the existing gums can be moved up the tooth to recover the root.
This is an up and coming procedure that avoids some of the problems with traditional gum grafting, and we are using it with great success.