There are 800 types of bacteria living inside your mouth, and even the slightest oral infection can send that bacteria into the rest of the body through your gums.
If you want a beautiful smile that you can enjoy for a lifetime, healthy gums are critical. Maintaining ideal gum health is not only important for holding teeth in place, it also decreases the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Many people with gum disease are unaware that their gums are infected because they don’t have pain and the infection is down inside the gum pocket. Periodontal disease, commonly referred to as gum disease, is a bacterial infection that occurs between the tooth and the gum line.
“People with severe gum disease many times don’t bleed when they brush or floss because the area of infection is deep inside the pocket and not disturbed during daily cleaning. But, bleeding gum tissue also is not normal, just like a bleeding scalp with hair brushing is not normal,” says Dr. Jill Morris, a biologic dentist, who owns World Class Dentistry in Sarasota with her husband, Dr. Burr Bakke.“Your gums should never bleed.”
In an attempt to fight the infection, the body’s immune system releases antibodies in an attempt to destroy the bacteria and toxins. These antibodies also cause bone loss around the teeth. The influx of bacteria creates inflammation throughout the body.
Gum disease is especially dangerous for people with diabetes. If you have diabetes and periodontal disease, your risk of death increases by 400 to 700 percent.
“People with poorly controlled diabetes don’t have a strong immune system to fight the influx of bacteria and the inflammatory response wreaks havoc,”says Dr. Morris. “They are more vulnerable because they can’t fight the influx of bacteria traveling into the blood through the gum tissue.”
Those who have been diagnosed with diabetes and develop periodontal disease often have trouble controlling their blood sugar. When diabetes is not controlled, high glucose levels in the saliva help harmful bacteria to grow. However, because of the diabetes, the gum disease only intensifies because they can’t fight it.
“It’s like a vicious cycle,”says Dr. Morris. “Diabetes is such a serious disease.”
In 2008, 24 million people were diagnosed with diabetes and 57 million people were considered pre-diabetic; and if those pre-diabetics were to get gum disease, it could push them to become diabetic.
At World Class Dentistry, Dr. Morris and her team administer a C-reactive protein (CRP) finger stick test, which is a blood test marker for inflammation in the body. CRP is produced in the liver and released when something is wrong with the body. The higher the CRP levels, the more likely a patient is to have a serious illness such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
The good news is that gum disease is treatable. Whether you have diabetes or not, it’s important to get your gums healthy and watch your blood sugar.
Dr. Morris is able to treat gum disease in the office without surgery. Using laser therapy, she offers her patients a very comfortable gum therapy to treat the gum disease. The laser is used to kill any bacteria, viruses and fungi that are traveling through the gum tissue.
Lasering the gums also helps the tissue to reattach to the teeth to reduce pocket depths and allow complete cleaning of the pockets on a daily basis.
“What we do is very innovative,”says Dr. Morris. “It’s rare to find a dental office like us that has a history of treating periodontal disease with lasers for over 21 years. We know what works for our patients.”
In addition, Dr. Morris stresses the importance of proper home care, including the use of water picks, electric toothbrushes and healthy probiotic lozenges. Once someone has had gum disease, they have a higher risk of recurrence if proper daily hygiene is not practiced at home.
“That is key,” says Dr. Morris. “Research shows that we don’t cure gum disease, but I have been able to help people remain stable for many, many years and to save teeth.”