Are you one of the 50 million or more adult Americans who suffer from periodontal gum disease? Have you noticed bleeding gums, or have you been told that you may have gum disease? We’re going to try and shed some light on this common problem and discuss the gum disease treatment methods available to help you conquer it for good.
Gum disease is an infection. I stress the word infection because it is the key to its treatment, and it is often the most overlooked fact about gum disease. The dictionary defines an infection as “invasion and multiplication of microorganisms (germs) in body tissues.” The key word here is invasion. The germs in the case of gum disease are bacteria, and the invasion happens at the crevice between your gum and the tooth. Only with gum disease treatment can the damage be reversed.
The human tooth is primarily supported by the jaw bone, and to a lesser degree by the gum. The gum attaches to the tooth and forms a small crevice called the sulcus. As the bacteria damage the gum attachment, the sulcus deepens forming what we call a pocket.
Bacteria are tiny living micro-organisms that live in the mouth. The mouth in fact is a perfect incubator for bacteria. It is warm, moist and full of food.
Bacteria are extremely small, and are very apt at hiding in crevices and tiny imperfections of the lining of the mouth and the teeth.
Well most of the Bacteria that colonize the mouth originally get passed form the mother to the infant (thanks mom!). In fact studies have shown that mothers and infants have almost identical bacteria make up in their mouth. These bacteria can also be transmitted from other family members or significant others.
Most bacteria that live in the mouth are either harmless, or beneficial, but there is a group of them that are up to no good. These harmful Bacteria are able to produce disease.
Usually the body can keep these bacteria under control, but there is a battle between the bacteria and the body at all times. The body has the upper hand if it is young, healthy, and if it is not overwhelmed by the shear number of these bacteria. If the Body gets tired, stressed, old or overwhelmed the bacteria get the upper hand and invade deeper and deeper, and destroy more and more of the body.
The human immune system is geared to attack and eliminate any foreign invaders that try to invade the body. Some people are at a genetic disadvantage, because their immune system is not totally honed to fight the bacteria that cause gum disease. Some people’s immune reaction to the bacteria is too mild, so the bacteria easily win the battle, and gum disease ensues. Either way, gum disease treatment is critical to offset and reverse the damage.
While other people the immune cells show an exaggerated response to the bacteria, and release so many munitions to eliminate the bacteria, that some of the munitions destroy the body as well as the bacteria (friendly fire casualty), and again gum disease and destruction ensues. Without gum disease treatment, the response can either be slow or exaggerated, but the final outcome is the presence of the bacteria that causes the destruction of the gum attachment and bone surrounding the teeth.
What we have found through multiple scientific experiments is that even if some one is genetically susceptible to gum disease, but does not harbor the harmful bacteria they will never develop gum disease. This was a very significant finding and is very good news for the million of folks who are at a genetic disadvantage fighting gum disease and seeking gum disease treatment.
To fight this particular infection called gum disease we have to eliminate the harmful bacteria with gum disease treatment. Eliminating the bacteria the right way and on a prolonged basis is the secret and basis to treating gum disease and this has eluded people up to now.
First of all it took scientists decades of intensive research to find out which bacteria from the millions that occupy the mouth cause gum disease. To successfully treat gum disease we only need to eliminate the harmful bacteria. It is not needed or desirable to eliminate all the bacteria in the mouth; because most of them are beneficial, and if they are all eliminated other opportunistic organisms will take over.
After these bacteria were identified, it took years to come up with an easy way to culture them (to grow them in the lab) so that we could study them. And then it took more time to figure out successful ways of eliminating them.
What we have learned about these bacteria is that through years of evolution they have developed real neat evasion mechanisms. Almost all of the harmful bacteria are anaerobic (means they live in the absence of oxygen). So they hide in the deep crevices of the gums, where they cannot be brushed or flossed away. And once they are there they form a mineral deposit on the teeth called tartar or calculus that stick to the teeth, and cannot be budged by a tooth brush or floss.
Tarter is extremely porous, and cavernous, so it literally has millions and millions of caves and valleys for hiding the bacteria. To top it off the bacteria form something called biofilm. Biofilm is a very sticky, gooey sludge that is very difficult to disrupt or penetrate. Antibiotics are totally ineffective against undisrupted biofilm, and that is one of the reasons why gum disease does not respond effectively to stand alone antibiotic treatment.
First of all the antibiotic does not penetrate the biofilm, and the bacteria at the center of the mass are completely sheltered and secondly antibiotics cannot and will not remove tartar. Unless tartar is removed the gums will not heal (it is like having a splinter in your finger; it will not heal until the splinter is removed). Lastly some of these bacteria are resistant to conventional antibiotics, and even if you could get them with a direct hit, it would bounce off them.