by Jacob Trager, D.D.S.
Periodontal disease, or periodontitis, is one of the most prevalent chronic inflammatory diseases. It is estimated that 75 percent of adult Americans manifest some aspect of this disease and over 90 percent will experience gingivitis (gum disease) at some time in their lives. There is an alarming increase in the number of children, both pre- and post-puberty, who exhibit aggressive or acute forms of periodontal disease.
WHAT DOES IT DO?
Periodontal disease deteriorates or destroys the connective tissue, which attach teeth to surrounding gums and jaw bone. As more of this tissue is lost, teeth become loose and the bone supporting the teeth is lost.
WHAT CAN IT CAUSE?
Research over the past five years has demonstrated a link between periodontal disease and overall body health. Periodontal disease predisposes us to a number of medical conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, complications of pregnancy (premature, low-birth weight babies), and osteoporosis. In turn, these conditions can contribute to periodontal disease by altering and impairing the body's immune response; emphasizing the powerful interconnectedness of the body.
Current research on periodontal disease also shows increased levels of inflammatory markers in the blood. If left undisturbed by lax oral hygiene, periodontal bacteria will form colonies, which will block oxygen and nutrition meant for the mouth and gums and flourish in the absence of oxygen. This induces the body to produce cytokines or chemical messengers, which enter the blood stream, stimulating the liver and white blood cells to increase production of inflammatory proteins, such as c-reactive proteins (CRPs), inflammatory cytokines, blood coagulation factors, and increased blood fat levels. These blood markers are associated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease and the other maladies mentioned above. If you periodically monitor your blood chemistry, make certain these inflammatory markers are evaluated.
CAUSES AND FACTORS
Over the course of my 50-year career, I have concluded that many of the contributing factors to periodontal disease are holistic or involve imbalances of the whole body: body, mind, emotion, and spirit or any combination thereof. And that long-term success of prevention and treatment depends on a comprehensive whole-body therapeutic approach.
THE PHYSICAL LEVEL
In advanced periodontal disease, it becomes increasingly difficult to adequately chew food, contributing to malabsorption and obesity. Holistically speaking, it is important to know that there is an intimate functional relationship between the five major components of the mouth:
The mouth is a primary source of expression and gratification. It is how we feed, nurture, and express ourselves. Lack of self expression can result in holding, biting back, or swallowing emotions and feelings. If this is a pattern in your life, it can result in increasing internal stress levels and, inevitably, inflammation of periodontal tissues, teeth grinding or clenching, jaw muscle soreness, and TMJ problems.
The mouth is also how we take in all forms of nutrition: The food we eat on the physical level, the thoughts and images we digest on the mental level, and the feelings we swallow on the emotional level. Developing a conscious awareness of all the ways we nourish ourselves can create a healing and healthy environment.
THE SPIRITUAL LEVEL
In ancient teachings, the mouth was considered the most sacred place in the body. It is on this level, we express the love we feel and the beauty we see. Developing a reverent, warm, loving relationship with your mouth and its care will provide you with a powerful foundation for health and wellness.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
A balanced diet of protein, good fat, and carbohydrates in the most organic natural form is preferable. Nutritional supplementation is crucial to building the body's defenses against disease and increasing strength, flexibility, and resilience of the interconnected oral components. The following is a list of supplements I recommend for optimal periodontal and overall body health and wellness:
* Antioxidants to support metabolic oxygenation:
Because most dentists are not holistically oriented, it is important for you to make them aware of your life's situations (stresses, traumas, and irritants). In this way, you are educating the practitioner about you and your particular needs. You then can become an active therapeutic partner in your oral health care.