Gum disease is related to whole-body health. Dr. Nammy Patel, founder of Green Dentistry, discusses how gum disease happens and what patients can do to treat it at the dentist’s office and at home. Listen or read more to find out about the link between gum disease and whole-body health.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher, and I’m here today with Dr. Nammy Patel, founder of Green Dentistry in San Francisco, California, helping patients recognize the vital connection between dental health and whole-body health. Today, our topic is gum disease and whole-body health. Welcome, Dr. Nammy.

Dr. Nammy Patel: Hi John. How are you?

John: Good, thanks. So, Dr. Nammy, what is gum disease and what are some of its symptoms?

Dr. Nammy:  Gum disease is bleeding gums and loss of bone, and it’s usually notated by patients saying, “I have bad breath that I can’t seem to get rid of,” or, “When I brush my teeth, it’s bleeding,” or “My teeth are loose, my gums are pulling away.” And those are the common things that I hear from my patients. Or a lot of times, patients don’t even know they have gum disease. You know, they just come in and say, “I haven’t been to a dentist in a year and a half to two years.” And that’s usually the amount of time it takes when all these sugar bugs start creeping up and start getting stuck around the teeth and start eating away the bones. So that is what gum disease is.

Bone Loss is a Symptom of Gum Disease

John: So, you said that one of the symptoms is loss of bone. What bone are you talking about in the mouth?

Dr. Nammy:  So, the teeth are actually just like a tree. Trees held in place by soil, the tooth is held in place by bone. So, we actually have a little socket, and our tooth actually goes in a socket, and the bone is where it’s like the infrastructure.

John: So, if you lose some of that bone, then your teeth, like you said, start to wiggle and could even come out.

Dr. Nammy:  Yes.

Complications of Untreated Gum Disease

John: All right. So, what are some oral complications that gum disease causes if it’s left untreated?

Dr. Nammy:  The oral complications most commonly are loose teeth and then teeth falling out. Also, when the bacteria, so here’s what happens, you eat and then there’s bacteria in the mouth because there’s carbohydrates, you know, the bacteria is going to eat, as well. You brush and floss, come in six months, not a big deal. When you’re not able to do that, also, if you’re taking any sort of medications, if there’s dry mouth, if you’re vaping, if you’ve got an immune disorder, anything along those lines, these bacteria end up dividing a lot more. As they divide, they release acids and those acids eat away the tooth and cause something called cavity. And then these acids basically dissolve the bone structure or the soil of the tree, and that’s how you end up losing bone.

And that’s what makes the teeth loose and will cause tooth loss, which has a huge detriment on the whole body. What actually happened, or there’s a scientific fact that is proven that people who keep their teeth live an extra 10 years. And it’s because when you have your teeth you can chew, you can get the leafy greens, which is, you’ve got to get all the antioxidants so that way your immune system can be at optimal function and it can fight disease. And that way you live longer.

Unhealthy Gums Lead to Unhealthy Bodies

John: So is that the biggest way that gum disease can affect the body, is in terms of, you know, changing the eating habits of people and therefore that’s affecting your overall body health? Or are there other ways that gum disease can affect the body?

Dr. Nammy:  There’s a lot of other ways that gum disease can affect the body. The gum disease just is a disease, so your body’s going to have to expend energy fighting it. So, there are bad sugar bugs or bad bugs in gum disease and especially these snake-like bacteria, they’re very hard to get rid of. And, so, it puts a lot of stress on your immune system to fight those guys off. And, so, when we’re in a society where we have all these demands of working, that high stress level, productivity, our body, instead of spending energy doing the things that we want to, ends up spending unconscious energy trying to fight these bugs off and trying to help protect you from them.

Gum Disease Treatments

John: So, Dr. Nammy, what treatments are available for gum disease?

Dr. Nammy:  So, for majority of my patients, if they have gum disease, we do something called a deep cleaning. What a deep cleaning is is we numb the gums, and then we scrub away all the bacteria out of there, and then we make sure that the teeth are nice and smooth so that more bacteria can’t stick to it. And after that we use a laser. So, what the laser does, it goes all the way down to the bone, because it’s a laser beam. It can penetrate tissue, and it disinfects any surrounding bacteria that may be there. Then what we do is something called bio photo stimulation. So, we use a laser at a different frequency. And what that does is we go around the gums and tell the gums that it’s time to start healing. So that way, once all the bacteria is gone, the tissue can start healing on its own. So that way it can be very pain-free, it can be very comfortable, and you can go back to chewing and going to your natural daily activities.

John: And what types of treatments do you recommend for people at home, things that they can do on their own to try to help to maintain that after they leave your office?

Dr. Nammy:  The best thing to do is to make sure getting a Waterpik. A Waterpik is a device that squirts water in between the teeth. And so flossing is really hard, because it involves a lot of practice and sometimes it takes a lot of time. And my favorite thing to do is keep it in the shower so that way you can utilize a Waterpik every time you’re in the shower, so it doesn’t make a mess or anything like that. And then in the Waterpik, you can put a tablespoon of peroxide. The peroxide has oxygen in it. So, what the oxygen does, it kills off bad bacteria, because bad bacteria cannot live in oxygen, especially gum disease bacteria. So that would be my advice, is to get a Waterpik, put some peroxide in, and use it.

The other thing that’s very, very, very useful is oil pulling. So, you can take oil and swish around your mouth for 20 minutes, and then spit it out. Or you can take coconut oil, rub it around your gums minimally, at least for two minutes, and then you can go to bed. That also helps with gum recession and helps increase circulation.

John: How does the oil in your mouth help with that? What is it actually doing?

Dr. Nammy:  So, coconut oil actually has natural antibacterial characteristics, so there’s enzymes in coconut oil that would actually help kill bacteria. So that’s how it actually is helpful.

John: That’s really interesting, and great advice, Dr. Nammy. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Dr. Nammy:  My pleasure.

John: And for more information about Green Dentistry, visit the website at sfgreendentist.com or call (415) 578-9347.