HOW TO PREVENT GUM DISEASE AND TOOTH DECAY
Source of material: PDA Network News, nos 7&9, IV/85
Most people have developed the belief that teeth are wearing out from use and with age, and that therefore the primary function of a dentist is to cut out what cannot be used any more or is a danger to the remaining healthy teeth and gums. Nothing could be more remote from the truth. The reason for this misconception is that about 98% of the dentists' clientele only make an appointment when something has broken off, the pain has become unbearable, or a visible disease (like gum recession) has occured.
According to the same statistics the remaining 10% split into 8% that honour the dentist's pre-booking for another visit and 2% that are coming on their own account, suspicious enough to take this unpleasant step.
In an age in which the materialistic side of valueing things and concerns is utterly overbalanced, it is small wonder that patients are regarding dental visits as a painful way to lose money and matter (teeth), and dentists have developed the apathy that reparative dentistry - though very stoical in their routine - is the safest way to get out of debt and stay on a high profit margin from there on. Reparative work, like fillings, bridges, artificial teeth, are labour and material intensive. This is where the money lies. Preventative approaches, like educating the client how to keep the mouth free from the causes of cavities and pyorrhea, put the practitioner on a high ethical pedestal, but leave him with a smaller wallet. Unfortunately the official and authoritative side of the industry is hitting into the same score, for the same reason.
Gum disease and tooth decay are two typical examples where preventative practices - and these exercised predominantly on the side of the patient - can yield a life time of oral health, and with that the avoidance of both unnecessary dental visits and a phthisical purse. The following description of gum disease (and tooth decay) will serve to illustrate this statement. (Picture)
The picture shows a cross section of a tooth. The spongy looking material is the bone that holds the tooth in place. The bone on the left of the tooth is healthy while on the right side it has deteriorated because of gum disease. The gum tissue covers the bone and a thin layer of tissue fibre surrounds the tooth; this way the tooth is attached to the bone (a velcro-like clinging). When the teeth first grow, a small crevice exists between the tooth and the gum tissue, about 1 mm deep. In the drawing the crevice on the left side of the tooth is 3 mm deep; this is already an unhealthy condition, because bacterial waste products can easily cause an inflammation of the surrounding tissue, which would lead to infection and deep bone deterioration. This condition has set in on the right side of the tooth. The depth of the pocket formation of 8 mm has caused a severe bone loss, and if not arrested very soon will result in the tooth being lost (a case of pyorrhea=bone loss).
The cause for the development of a crevice with an unhealthy depth lies in the existence of spirochetes, motile rods and cocci; all of which being the most responsible bacteria of a variety of about 300 that the mouth routinely harbours (normal healthy condition).
To prevent gum disease then is to reduce these troublemakers below a certain quantity. The onset of tooth decay follows basically the same mechanism, only here it is the acid parts of the toxic waste products (food left-overs) below the gum line that eat holes (notches) into the teeth.
The verdict on the problem of gum disease (and tooth decay) is simply that the neck of the tooth is not given sufficient attention. The solution lies therefore in cleansing the crevice areas of certain bacteria and toxic waste products. If a crevice has developed into a crevasse (a sizable pocket), dental attention for a professional clean-out is unavoidable.
More teeth are lost due to pyorrhea than due to decay. About 98% of all Americans (expected to be nearly the same in AUS) have at least one area of diseased gum tissue in their mouth; over half of these are also experiencing a progressive bone loss. On the patient's side proper cleansing around the gum line circles around the notions of 'diet' and 'oral hygiene'. A diet lacking in essential nutrients - with respect to teeth and bones specifically calcium and phosphorus - from natural sources inevitably leads to malnutrition, endocrine abnormalities, and in general, to a weakened immune system. Pharmaceutical treatments also have side effects because of the chemical content of the pharmaca (most of them are acid-forming). More than 500 of the commonly used drugs reduce the amount of saliva flow in the mouth (to mention a few: Actifed, Donnata, Benedryl, Librax, Chlortrimeton, Ornade, Compazine, Sudafed, Dimetane, Thorazine and Valium). Apart from acting as a sewage transporter the saliva is the 'healing fluid' of the mouth, for it contains - in its healthy state - ingredients that remineralise cavities and rejuvenate the gum tissue.
Oral hygiene is first of all depending on the mechanical cleaning of teeth and tissue after every meal and drink, (and as recently discovered, after fellatio). The application of an appropriate dental floss around the gum line and in between the teeth is also mandatory. Oral irrigators (water pressure cleaners) are an excellent substitute for the former as long as no crevice has developed. After this stage stastics show that in 30% of the cases they speed up the deterioation of gum tissue and/or bone decay, because they push too many of the bacteria-ridden or acid-forming waste particles deeper into the developing pockets. The problem for the user is, not to know when this line has been crossed.
To summarise the aforesaid, a diet of naturally grown and not commercially processed foods, giving dominance to alkaline instead of acid-forming produces, exluding red meat, alcohol, coffee, tea, hot spices, and tobacco, mixed with a certain portion of natural roughage and combined with the routine of thorough cleansing with brush and floss after meals and oral sex, are the cheapest way to maintain oral health and thus ones own teeth for a life time. Gum disease and bone loss are preventable and reversible!
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