Gum disease is the primary cause of tooth loss in adults 35 and over. Sure loosing teeth is bad, but loss of life is worse! It is now widely known that gum disease (aka periodontal disease) increases one’s chance of stroke or heart attack by 80% or more! So what’s new regarding the prevention and treatment of gum disease?

Over the last decade, scientific research has collected a great deal of new information about the cause of periodontal disease, just recently has the processes that bacteria use to propagate, and eventually cause the gum infection, become clear. The knowledge of how gum disease progresses opens up opportunities to treat gum disease in new and unique ways with antibiotics and laser treatment. However, there is little new that changes how we can prevent the problem of gum disease in the first place. So sorry, you still need to brush and floss every day. However, science has discovered much more about why we need to take our daily care more seriously. The good news is that it doesn’t take a degree in microbiology for anyone to understand.

The analogy that we often use at Kaneohe Family Dental Care to explain the extremely complex bacteriological activity that causes gum disease comes from the 1989 movie, Field of Dreams. The famous line from the movie is, “…build it and he (they) will come.”

New information indicates that at least some of the bacteria we’ve been telling people to brush and floss off our teeth isn’t all that bad after all. That’s contrary to the old notion that the goal of brushing and flossing is to remove all the bacteria from our teeth. Frankly, removing all of the bacteria from our teeth is a futile task anyway. It is impossible to sterilize our teeth that are located in our bacteria laden mouths. In order to prevent gum disease and cavities, we just need to disrupt the bacteria on our teeth about every 12 hours or so to drastically reduce our chances of getting periodontal disease.

In our mouths, there are many kinds of bacteria, not all of them have the ability to adhere directly to our teeth. The new research tells us that after we clean our teeth, the bacteria that stick to our teeth first is harmless and even provides beneficial effects for our health. Unfortunately, when we leave that initial layer of good bacteria alone and undisturbed for more than 12 hours it multiplies to a thickness and pattern, a “matrix”, that allows the nasty bacteria that cause gum disease and cavities to adhere to our teeth and rapidly multiply. Hence, if good bacteria “build their matrix” the bad bacteria “will come”. This backs up what we always taught about prevention of gum disease. Maintenance of a healthy mouth requires only that we mess up those good bacteria’s matrix 2 times a day so they never complete their work. In this way, we allow the good bacteria to hang around and do what is beneficial to us, but we prevent them from making a field suitable for the team of players that cause gum disease to show up and do their thing. This also explains why we generally do not recommend mouthwashes that kill bacteria. Eliminating all the bugs in your mouth is not necessary, and can be counterproductive, because doing so indiscriminately kills both good and bad bacteria. Excellent oral health just requires only that you brush and floss two times daily. Doing so will greatly reduce your chance of having periodontal disease, cavities, and even potential cardiovascular problems.

– Bruce Keller, DDS