Straight Teeth Talk: Zero tolerance for bleeding gums
In the early '80s, I was teaching dentists all over North America a technique called nonsurgical periodontal treatment. I learned the technique from my father, who learned from his father.
It was a simple concept that was not taught in dental schools anywhere in the nation. It was based on my grandfather's concept that gum and bone diseases were infections and should be treated as such by cleaning the infected area, medicating with a local or systemic antimicrobial and letting the body heal itself.
I was among a handful of dentists teaching the philosophy across the nation. I received praise as well as arrows in my back. The arrows were from dentists who did not want to change or did not want general dentists performing procedures that only a specialist should be doing.
In 1980, the focus of dentistry was on cavities, not gum disease. Dentists did not know how to treat or how to communicate to the patient about the disease because everyone was only focused on decay.
I am happy to say that what I was teaching more than 30 years ago is now the standard of care. The lay public is more concerned about gum and bone disease now than decay because it spreads more via the bloodstream.
Scientific studies now show a direct link in gum disease and other diseases or conditions of the body. There is a new book out about preventing heart disease and stroke, "Beat the Heart Attack Gene." The book directly connects bleeding gums with cardiovascular disease. I will be reporting more on that in next month's column.
My office, along with many of my dentist friends across North America, is adopting a zero tolerance for bleeding gums. Here is the deal: bleeding gums are a sign of an infection; it is not normal.
If it bleeds, it needs. And what it needs is to get the bad bacteria out so the body can heal. Healthy gums do not bleed, period.
You have gum infection if:
When you brush, your toothpaste is pink in the sink.
When you floss, and your floss turns red.
When you use a toothpick and it has blood on it.
This infection can and does spread via the bloodstream. How much damage it does is totally unpredictable, but when scientists start examining the blood clot that caused a fatal heart attack or stroke and find pathogenic bacteria that originated from the mouth, it makes one pause.
Gum disease comes in many forms, and only a dentist can diagnose and recommend treatment. There are basically three forms of disease: mild, moderate and severe. Treatment is based on how serious the infection really is.
I will go into more depth about the problem next month. Until then, if you have bleeding gums, seek help from a dentist/hygienist you trust.
Dr. Mac Lee practices in Edna. He is a international speaker to dentists and is an adviser to Dr. Mehmet Oz. To learn more, visit drmaclee.com or call 361-782-7191.