Understanding Gum Disease So You Can Heal It – Guide Part 1/8
Following are the key points I make in this article:
- Your health is your responsibility; your alignment and intention around your health make a difference in your ability to cure gum disease.
- Gingivitis is reversible gum inflammation that does not increase with age.
- Periodontitis, or gum disease, is bone loss in the jaw that is cyclical in nature and gets worse over time with age. It is regulated by host response.
- The field of dentistry focuses on the removal of plaque and the destruction caused by bacteria and it does not inform people clearly that the consensus of periodontal science is that your body’s response to the plaque known as the “host response” is what really matters.
The Purpose of Writing this Book and Website
By working with people to heal their gum disease, I have found that success is determined before you begin. Those of you who align with and open yourselves to a positive energy stream, a good vibration, or a deep soul current toward health will be the ones who succeed. Those of you who feel closed, resistant, doubtful. and unwilling to do the work that it takes to heal will be the ones who usually fail. But don’t worry if you are a habitual skeptic or disbeliever. I am skeptical, too. Skepticism can be healthy. And if you’ve been burned too many times by false hopes and painful treatments, then naturally it is hard to be optimistic. But if your skepticism is a tool of resistance and stagnation which blocks you from taking positive action, then your skepticism will be a hindrance on your path to recovery.
In order for you to succeed and understand gum disease, I urge you to give yourself the time you need and deserve to understand gum disease thoroughly. If your goal is simply to rush past the slow and deliberate decay of your body, then your odds of successfully healing this condition decrease quite a bit. My concern is that you may not succeed if you hurriedly try to eliminate the disease from your mind, so that you can move on to the next “more important” thing. I recommend that your goal be to face your reality, so you can do something about it.
What Is Gum Disease? Let us define the terms.
A brief anatomy review is important to help define and clarify the condition of gum disease. Gum disease is caused by a deficiency of nutrients in your body, which for some people results in inflammation and bone loss in your periodontium.
The periodontium consists of four components:
- Gum tissue which is the pink skin in your mouth and specifically around your teeth.
- The periodontal ligament, which is the matrix of micro cartilaginous strands that secures the teeth into the socket similar to the way cables hold up a suspension bridge. The periodontal ligament is sandwiched between the cementum and the alveolar bone. The periodontalligament actually suspends the tooth in the socket, so that it can depress, flex, rotate, and move in ways to accommodate biting and chewing forces without damaging the tooth or the alveolar bone.
- Cementum is the outer layer of the tooth which is below the gum line which through the periodontal ligaments connects to your gum tissue to the alveolar bone.
- The alveolar bone is the part of the maxilla (palate) and mandible (jaw) bone that contains the socket that holds the tooth in place.
Gingivitis – It’s Real Meaning
Gingivitis InflammationGingival means pertaining to the gums and itis means inflammation. Gingivitis means inflammation of the gum tissues without loss of connective tissue attachment. The true cause of this condition is a nutritional deficiency resulting in tissue inflammation.
- Red or reddish-blue gums.
- Swollen tissue at the gingival margin.
- Bleeding upon gentle probing.
Periodontitis (also called gum disease, periodontal disease, and formerly known as pyorrhea)
Peri means around, odont means tooth, and itis means inflammation. Periodontitis means inflammation of the area around your tooth. Periodontitis is the progressive loss of the alveolar bone around the teeth. Periodontitis involves gum tissue inflammation at sites where there has been a consistent detachment of connective tissue from the cementum, the base of the gum has migrated away from its apex, and bone loss can be detected by x-ray. Periodontitis also involves the presence of bleeding on probing, deep pockets, recession, and tooth mobility. Its real cause is demineralization of tissues and bones from nutritional deficiencies and the resulting infection and loss of the maxilla and mandible bones.
Periodontal (Gum Disease) Symptoms
- Space between teeth where gums are normally present.
- Alveolar bone loss.
- Excess tooth mobility.
- Probing depths greater than 4 millimeters (4mm) due to loss of connective tissue.
Moderate periodontal disease is defined as having at least two teeth with interproximal (in between teeth) attachment loss of 4 millimeters or more OR at least two teeth with 5 millimeters or more of pocket depth at interproximal sites. The prevalence of moderate periodontitis in the U.S. is 30 percent of adults. The prevalence of moderate periodontitis increases with age with those over sixty-five years the most affected.
Severe periodontal disease is defined as having at least two teeth with interproximal (in between teeth) attachment loss of 6 millimeters or more AND at least one tooth with 5 millimeters or more of pocket depth at interproximal sites. Severe periodontitis was estimated to occur in 8.5 percent of U.S. adults over thirty years of age; that’s more than twenty million people.
Understanding Commonly Used Terms
Gum disease: This general term can refer to any condition of inflammation or deterioration of the gum tissue or surrounding tissue or bone.
Stop and Take a Good Look at Your Gum Disease
A macro photograph taken of the upper and lower molars and premolars of a person with partial tooth loss and sum gum recession
The healing process begins when you fully own, or embody your suffering. Loose teeth, inflammation of oral tissues, pain from biting and chewing food, and losing teeth, is suffering. Not knowing what to do about this disease as it progresses and worsens compounds the suffering. Take a moment right now to notice how you feel about your experience of gum disease.
As a further step of acknowledgment of your health situation, I would encourage you to look at your gums in the mirror and to take some pictures of your gum recession, inflammation, or loose teeth. It’s important to look at, see, and really feel what your body is doing. Gum disease is a precursor to more serious illnesses, so I want you to face your reality.
Profitable Misconceptions about Gum Disease
Before the 1970s there were a variety of opinions as to what caused gum disease and as a result patients would receive widely different treatments from the different dentists they visited. Since the 1970s a unified message has been taught to and by the dental profession: that bacterial plaque causes periodontal disease and that regular plaque removal is the best way to prevent and treat the disease.
The American Academy of Periodontology website offers this explanation for gum disease:
Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene. Gingivitis is reversible with professional treatment and good oral home care… Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. With time, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. The toxins stimulate a chronic inflammatory response in which the body in essence turns on itself, and the tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down and destroyed. Gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that become infected.
Cleaned teeth with air prophy unit – before and after.
All of us who have been in a dental chair have been told that mantra so often that most of us believe it to be true. But the truth is that there is no consensus about bacteria as the cause of gum disease.
A 1997 article in the Journal of the American Academy of Periodontology states there are more than three hundred types of bacteria in the mouth but “very few of these bacteria cause systemic infection in healthy individuals.” Furthermore our “innate host defense system,” constantly monitors, and “prevents bacterial intrusion.” What this means is that there is always a variety of bacteria in our mouth. And our body usually prevents the few “bad” bacteria from becoming too prevalent.
Host Defense System and Periodontal Disease
The Progression of Gum DiseaseThe concept of a “host defense system”—meaning our body’s ability to monitor and control bacterial infections—is also well accepted in the field of periodontology. In 2005 the American Academy of Periodontology concluded that only 20 percent of periodontal disease can be attributed to bacteria and cited host response as the key factor in gum disease.
This conclusion matters because the concept of our body’s ability to protect itself and maintain health, what the literature refers to as host response, is the key variable which determines why some people have gum disease and others do not. Periodontal researchers have acknowledged and accepted that periodontal disease is a systemic disease focused on the body’s reaction to bacteria, and is therefore a “multifactorial, complex disease.”
What’s more, researchers have documented the episodic and periodic nature of gum disease. With chronic periodontitis, periods of “rapid progression” are followed by long periods of “remission.” This simply would seem to acknowledge that gum disease can go into remission by itself, although the modern dental industry does not seem to know why. The systemic nature of gum disease is further illustrated by aggressive periodontitis, the term for fast acting gum recession that occurs primarily in young people during times of rapid growth. This is not caused by bacteria but by the rapid depletion of vitamins and minerals caused by growth spurts.
Gingivitis Does Not Inevitably Lead to Periodontitis
The currently accepted theory of the cause of gum disease holds that untreated gingivitis always leads to periodontal disease.
However, scientific evidence does not support that claim. Indeed, an American Academy of Periodontology position paper cites research dating back to the 1980s that proves “relatively few sites with gingivitis go on to develop periodontitis.”
A three-year study on gingivitis also found no obvious signs that gingivitis progressed to periodontal disease and went so far as to say “the subjects were relatively resistant to periodontitis.” Furthermore, receiving professional dental cleanings every six months did not eliminate gingivitis.
While the research says that gingival sites do not go on to develop into full periodontal disease, there is a correlation between the illnesses. They have a similar underlying cause.
The Serious Problem of Gum Disease and Gingivitis
During 2009–2010, a large government survey showed how widespread gum disease is, and 45 percent of adults aged 45–64 had moderate and severe gum disease. As people age, they succumb to more and more gum disease. As we age we also lose more teeth. Not including wisdom teeth, the average 20 to 39-year-old is missing 1 tooth, the average 40 to 49-year-old 3.5 teeth, and those aged 60 and over are missing 8 teeth primarily as a result of gum disease.
A More Accurate Picture of Gum Disease
In 2010, the authoritative Periodontal Disease and Overall Health: a Clinician’s Guide written by dental professors and researchers published a more accurate picture on the cause of gum disease.
Now as a result of extensive research, it has been shown that periodontal disease is initiated by plaque, but the severity and progression of the disease is determined by the host response to the bacterial biofilm. People with severe plaque and calculus accumulation will have gingivitis, but not necessarily periodontitis. On the other hand, certain individuals, despite maintaining adequate oral hygiene, find themselves susceptible to aggressive forms of periodontitis, with deep pocketing, tooth mobility, and early tooth loss. Clearly, the response of the periodontal tissues to plaque is different in these two different scenarios… These observations led researchers to realize that the host response to the bacterial challenge, presented by subgingival plaque, is the important determinant of disease severity. (emphasis added)
Compare this more accurate theory with what the dental associations and dentists are teaching us.
These are two very different concepts about gum disease. The currently purported theory focuses on oral hygiene and bacterial toxins, while a more accurate and scientifically verified theory is that gum disease is primarily about the host response and how the body reacts to certain conditions. These two very different models about gum disease might and do lead to very different treatment approaches and results.
Are we to believe that the 38.5 percent of the adult population with moderate to severe gum disease does not take adequate care of their teeth and gums? Or should we ask what other factors might influence our body, its response to bacteria, its production of plaque, and the development of this disease?
In the next article, we look at a primary determinant of your body’s response to bacteria—the food we eat.
Continue to Part 2 of the Cure Gum Disease Tour
Periodontal Tour References
“Periodontitis Among Adults Aged ≥ 30 Years — United States, 2009 – 2010.”Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22 Nov. 2013. Web. 20 Aug. 2014. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/su6203a21.htm
White, Donald J. “Dental Calculus: Recent Insights into Occurrence, Formation, Prevention, Removal and Oral Health Effects of Supragingival and Subgingival Deposits.” European Journal of Oral Sciences 105.5 (1997): 508-22. Web.
“QuickStats: Prevalence of Moderate and Severe Periodontitis* Among Adults Aged 45 – 74 Years, by Race/Ethnicity and Age Group — National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, United States, 2009 – 2010.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 Jan. 2013. Web. 20 Aug. 2014. <http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6202a6.htm>.
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