Did you know that gum disease affects more than half of all people over the age of 30? As prevalent as this disease is, many people still remain undiagnosed. Typical symptoms of patients with gum disease include red, swollen, and puffy gums that feel tender to the touch. If left untreated, the disease can progress and result in loss of connective tissue, gum recession, and even tooth loss. Pus can also develop in the pockets between the teeth and gums as the body attempts to fight the infection. Not surprisingly, this creates a permanent bad taste in the mouth, and sufferers will also have bad breath. Not only does gum disease wreak havoc in your mouth, studies have also shown that is linked to serious conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and even impotence.
By: Veronique Benhamou, DDS, BSc, Cert. Perio, FPFA, FADI, FACD
It has been known since the beginning of the last century that microorganisms can be killed by various combinations of dyes and light. Ancient Egyptian, Indian and Chinese civilizations used light to treat various diseases, including psoriasis, rickets, vitiligo and skin cancer. In 1901, Niels Finsen used light to treat smallpox and cutaneous tuberculosis and in 1903, he won the Nobel Prize for his work on phototherapy (Nature 2003, Dennis et al) However, the interest in antimicrobial Photodynamic Therapy (aPDT) was diminished concurrently with the introduction of antibiotics; it is only in recent years, with the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis that a search for alternative treatments has stimulated a revival of interest on aPDT. It is an effective antibacterial therapy that involves the use of specific-wave light energy to activate a photosensitive compound (photosensitizer), which interacts with locally present molecular oxygen. APDT has the potential to be a powerful alternative to antibiotic therapy, particularly for the treatment of localized infections of the skin and the oral cavity. Microorganisms that are killed by this technique include bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa. Read More
Most people assume that dental research is confined to teeth and oral tissues, but a recent article in Nature proves this is far from the case. According to the article, research into oral conditions can be an indication as to overall health, especially as many of the molecules found in the blood are also found in saliva, although at much lower levels.
Saliva testing could be a much less invasive way of discovering a patient’s risk for disease, and the tests could be carried out in the dental or doctor’s office. Patients could even collect their own saliva specimens at home, and this type of sampling would be far more pleasant for older people and young children. It could prove to be very cost effective as well.
Possible links between gum disease and other serious health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes have already been well documented, and have raised the question as to whether improvements in oral health could help prevent or manage these conditions. DNA from oral bacteria has already been found in plaque which builds up in blood vessels and the synovial fluid of joints, leading to questions as to whether bacteria could cause heart attacks or prosthetic joint failure.
Apparently poor dental health could be attributed to our modern diet, as today’s food tends to be a lot mushier than in ancient times. A recent conference, Evolution of Human Teeth and Jaws: Implications for Dentistry and Orthodontics in North Carolina put forward the suggestion that our diet is so radically different from our ancestors that numerous dental health problems, including cavities and crowded teeth are just about inevitable.
Their findings were based on studies of ancient teeth which tend to be well preserved. Archaeologists have been able to examine the teeth of not only our ancient ancestors, but also people who lived more recently, and who followed a hunter gatherer diet such as Kalahari Bushmen and the aboriginals. Around 13,000 years ago these hunter gatherers began to become farmers, and as a result food became much softer and didn’t need to be chewed so much. One of the effects is that the human jaw has become smaller, and more people suffer from overcrowding, and there is frequently little space for wisdom teeth to erupt.