- kissed a person with gum disease? Then you know how it tastes.
- spoken to a person with gum disease? Then you know how it smells.
- seen a person smile who has red or swollen gums? Then you know how it looks.
Surprising as it may sound, many people with gum disease frequently do not know they have it until the late stages of destruction. Even when it comes to general infection and inflammation in the body, the majority of people don’t know they have them.
Let’s talk specifically about the mouth. The sad part is that the majority of individuals only realize they have a problem after their workplace buddies, or friends, or partners start to avoid being close to them. Others only may know that they have a problem after their teeth start to get loose and fall out. Damage that occurs on a cellular level anywhere in the body also affects the entire human complexity, of which the mouth is an intricate part. The mouth is often viewed by the general public as remote from the inner workings of the human body. Yet, the mouth may be the first area where systemic and chronic diseases manifest.
As a periodontist for 41 years, the mouth has been my professional area of expertise. The mouth is the portal to the entire human body and all of its inner workings.
Obviously, our primal ancestors did not have toothbrushes and did not see a dentist every 6 months, but they had relatively healthy mouths. They hardly ever had gum disease or tooth decay. Today, many people see a dentist every 6 months and also brush and floss daily, but some still have gum disease. Could it be that what we have learned to believe may not be so? Mark Twain put it so clearly: “It ain’t so much the things we don’t know that get us into trouble. It’s the things we know that just ain’t so.”
Oral health, as well as overall health, is critically dependent on four basic concepts or pillars. If any one of these is not functioning properly, then our body can become jeopardized. Unfortunately, we may not be aware if one of these pillars is out of kilter. The pillars of health include:
- A nutrient-dense diet feeding our cells and promoting healthy gut bacteria
- Efficient exercise
- Restorative sleep
- Reduction in all forms of stresses and toxins on and in our body
A study published in 2012 showed that 47.2% of the adult population over the age of 30 in the United States had periodontitis (which translated to 64.7 million Americans), and an astounding 70.1% of those over the age of 65 had this disease.
Periodontitis is more serious than gingivitis, which is inflammation only in the gum tissue. Periodontitis is an advanced stage of gum disease where the gums are infected and the bone surrounding the roots of the teeth are breaking down. This disease leads to bad breath, loose teeth, loss of teeth, sensitive teeth, pain, gum recession, and even spread of infection to other parts of the body.
“This is the most accurate picture of periodontal disease in the U.S. adult population we have ever had,” said Pamela McClain, DDS, and President of the American Academy of Periodontology at the time of the paper’s publication. “For the first time, we now have a precise measure of the prevalence of periodontal disease, and can better understand the true severity and extent of periodontal disease in our country.”
So, if you have gum disease, you are not alone. If you have this infection in your mouth, you most likely have chronic inflammation in other areas of your body. Whatever happens on a cellular level anywhere in the body frequently will manifest in other organ systems as chronic disease. Gum disease is another type of chronic disease related to the nourishment we provide our bodies and the lifestyle we lead.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has made specific statements of the prevalence of other forms of chronic disease in the US today.
- As of 2012, about half of all adults—117 million people—have one or more chronic health conditions. One of four adults has two or more chronic health conditions.
- Seven of the top 10 causes of death in 2010 were chronic diseases. Two of these chronic diseases—heart disease and cancer—together accounted for nearly 48% of all deaths.
- Obesity is a serious health concern. During 2009–2010, more than one-third of adults, or about 78 million people, were obese (defined as body mass index [BMI] ≥30 kg/m2). Nearly one of five youths aged 2–19 years was obese (BMI ≥95th percentile).
- Arthritis is the most common cause of disability.
- Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, lower limb amputations other than those caused by injury, and new cases of blindness among adults.
As I suggested, gum disease is a chronic disease. Embracing a healthy eating lifestyle is congruent with adopting a Primal or Paleo Lifestyle. Eating a nutrient-dense diet, which is one of my four pillars of health, will support a healthy mouth as well as a healthy body. A recently published article confirms that this way of eating can also reverse the risks of metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, low levels of HDL cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides, and increased fat tissue around the waist), which leads to various life-threatening diseases. Here Here and Here
So, what should you do if you think you may have gum disease?
- You should see your dentist or a periodontist to have a thorough periodontal examination to determine if you have a condition that requires treatment.
- You should try to clean your mouth appropriately.
- You should eat nutrient-dense foods (example: a Paleo-type diet).
Much of what you do personally to clean your mouth properly and to eat healthy will assist in preventing gum disease as well as other chronic diseases in the future.