Dr. Nammy Patel, founder of Green Dentistry in San Francisco, and author of the bestselling book, Age With Style— A Guide to a Youthful Smile and Healthy Living, discusses gum disease.

John Maher: Hey, I’m John Maher. 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 and author of the bestselling book Age With Style: Guide to a Youthful Smile and Healthy Living. Today, our topic is gum disease. Welcome Dr. Nammy.

Dr. Nammy: Hi, John. Thank you for having me.

What is Gum Disease?

John: Sure. So Dr. Nammy what is gum disease?

Dr. Nammy: So John, gum disease basically means that there are a lot of bad bacteria that are in the gums causing bleeding and bone loss. So just like any sort of environment, like our kitchen table after we eat, if we don’t clean it, the cockroaches kind of come around, right? So gum disease is the same kind of situation. Your mouth is an industrial mouth. We’re using it multiple times a day to eat. And if we don’t clean it, what happens is that bacteria overgrow and that is known as gum disease. As they grow, they release acids and the acids eat away at the bone. And also they cause inflammation. That’s why we find bleeding, we find bad breath, we find discomfort and pain, sometimes loose teeth. So those are all things that are related to gum disease. And also all that tartar that builds up. It makes teeth look yellow and unattractive too.

John: Well, I don’t want any of that to happen. So how can I prevent gum disease from happening in my mouth?

Preventing Gum Disease

Dr. Nammy: The best way to do that, of course is see your dentist, right? Come to the office and I actually recommend cleanings every three months versus six months because the bacteria does overgrow. And the quality of our food is not what it used to be. So our foods tend to be higher in fructose and sucrose, which are sugars. And so we tend to have more bacterial buildup than our ancestors did. The other things that are really helpful are using an electric toothbrush. And my favorite is a Waterpik.

I love the Waterpik because it squirts water in between the teeth. And in the Waterpik, I like to put about a tablespoon of peroxide. So peroxide has oxygen in it. So hydrogen peroxide, you get at the drugstore. You can put about a tablespoon of peroxide in there and squirt it in between the teeth. And what that does is it kills off any bad bacteria or bacteria that cause gum disease. And bad bacteria are the snake-like bacterias that are linked to Alzheimer’s and all sorts of issues. So the oxygen really kills it off. My other favorite thing is actually oil pulling or using coconut oil or sesame oil to pull out all the toxins from the body. So that’s very helpful as well.

Is Gum Disease Reversible?

John: What if it’s too late? I already have gum disease. Is there anything I can do, is gum disease reversible?

Dr. Nammy: The gum disease is actually stoppable, so not reversible but stoppable. So the things that we do is clean out all the bacteria, which will get rid of the disease, but we can also use lasers and ways to stimulate bone, which is really nice. Sometimes if the case is super advanced and we can’t do that, it’s really rare though. But during this time, what we find is that gum disease is easily stoppable. The key is to access it early and be more aggressive at earlier stages because usually with gum disease there are increments of 10 years or so five and 10 years is when you really see the difference. Because if there’s beginning signs of gum disease, when you’re 28, 29, it’s going to get worse by 33, 34 or by 40s because of aging and things of that nature. So gum disease is stoppable, but not reversible.

John: Okay. Talk a little bit more about the treatment options that are available for treating gum disease.

Gum Disease Treatment Options

Dr. Nammy: The most common treatment option for gum disease is going to be deep cleanings. And so what we do is we numb the gums and remove all the bacteria. Then we go in with a laser and disinfect it. It’s like a little flashlight that goes all the way down to the bone to disinfect the area. It’s kind of like a restaurant kitchen that gets sweeped and mopped every day, right? That’s your routine cleanings. And once in a while, you want to steam clean the environment, right? To get into the nooks and crannies. And that’s what a deep cleaning with a laser does. It goes into all the nooks and crannies to sterilize the environment. And it also helps cause healing, which is really great. It helps to heal the tissue so that you have regenerated tissue, which is wonderful.

John: And in terms of the cleaning that I get at the dentist, what can people do at home to help prevent gum disease from coming back?

Dr. Nammy: The best thing to do is use an electric toothbrush and to also look at coming in regularly, every three months versus six months. People who have had gum disease, it’s really important to come in every three months because it’s kind of like a swamp and you want it to go to a pond and it takes time. So routine maintenance is really the key. The second thing is also making sure the underlying condition is addressed. So if somebody is diabetic, making sure you’re taking your insulin, making sure you’re cleaning the mouth and being careful with cleaning the mouth, or if you have sleep apnea, the mouth is dry because you’re breathing through the mouth. Mouth-breathers are actually very common. So before going to bed, putting some coconut oil on the gums is really helpful. So those are the things that I would recommend. Of course, using an electric toothbrush and a Waterpik like we talked about. So those would be the things I’d recommend to make sure that once you get clean, it stays clean.

John: All right. That’s great advice, Dr. Nammy. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Dr. Nammy: My pleasure, John.

John: And for more information about Green Dentistry, visit the website at sfgreendentist.com or call (415) 433-0119.