Have you ever noticed how ideas seem to reappear? Deva ju? Fashions appear again, political ideas return, and even medical thinking can come full circle. For over 200 years medical science thought that bad teeth caused all sorts of diseases. Many people had all of their teeth pulled, without the benefit of anesthesia. Here we are today and the scientific evidence is piling up that teeth and gums are involved in a multitude of diseases.
Today new medical research continues to find more and more links between serious bodily diseases and dental diseases. From time to time here in my Encino dental office I am asked “Does gum disease damage other part of the body. The answer is clearly yes.
Many studies have shown that a bacterial infection in the mouth contains a large number of destructive bacteria affecting the whole body, most notably the heart, blood cells and the pancreases. They all are in some way related to gum disease although the exact mechanisms are not always clear.
Now researchers and clinicians have found that there is an association between two common chronic inflammatory diseases – periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However the mechanism and bacteria involved was a mystery, until now.
Several studies indicate that compared to the general population, people with periodontal disease have a much higher incidence of RA. Plus periodontal disease is at least two times more prevalent in RA patients. It was clear that there was a relationship.
In an article published in September, 2013 in a respected research journal, Jan Potempa, PhD, DSc, and an international team from the European Union’s Gums and Joints Project have found the bacteria responsible for periodontal disease, P. gingivalis worsens RA. This bacteria is responsible for faster progression, earlier onset, and greater severity of the RA. They noted that there is increased bone and cartilage damage when P. gingivalis is present.
For the scientists in my blog group here are some details. The study found that P. gingivalis produces a unique enzyme referred to as PAD. The full name contains 27 letters. This enzyme, PAD, changes residues of certain other enzymes into a protein. Then the body recognizes this protein as an intruder. This leads to an immune system attack.
“Our results suggest that the bacterial PAD may constitute the link between the P. gingivalis periodontal infection and rheumatoid arthritis, but this ground-breaking work needs to be further explored “, says Dr. Potempa. As is usual a disclaimer was placed at the end.
Researchers and some clinical dentists know there is a connection between gum disease and heart disease, kidney disease, blood disorders and several other serious illness. A leading Encino dentist like myself has been keeping up on the literature. So with this new information we can now add rheumatoid arthritis to the list. My question is ” what’s next?”.
At this holiday season I don’t want to leave you worried and depressed, leave that to me. Here is the good news. Gum disease is almost always preventable and treatable. It is easy to stay ahead of the game. The best single thing you can do is come to my Encino dental office frequently. Each person has different needs on timing of their visits and we can recommend the proper interval. I am strong on prevention, one of the most vociferous dentists in Encino on Prevention. It really pays.
Tip of the Day: If you know someone in a retirement home or assisted living facility beware. Dental care is woefully neglected. I see this almost every day in my Encino dental office and it breaks my heart. People who spent years saving their teeth are loosing them. Press the staff to make sure the teeth are taken care of. If dental visits are possible insist the dentist use all forms of fluoride available. Buy a bottle of fluoride for the person to rinse with. Be diligent. I am happy to give advice on this subject. Just call me.
Allan Melnick D.D.S.