A History of Gum Disease

Perio-Title

Gum Disease is a condition that is not new to many of us; whether it’s gingivitis, or the later stages of advanced periodontitis, most people have experienced words of caution from their dentist and plans for either prevention or halting progression. Periodontal disease is related to bacteria and plaque/tartar buildup in the mouth, and none of these are recent developments. So if our ancestors did suffer from gum disease – how was it resolved prior to modern medicine? There are some geographical variations to be considered when you note that populations spread around the globe had no means (or motivation) to spread their medical discoveries with one another. We will use the examples of ancient Egypt and Japan to explore just a few ways periodontal disease was found and treated before modern medical discoveries.

Ancient People

In ancient Egypt, as an example, modern researchers have a lot of material they can analyze, due to their burial practices that aimed to preserve their remains. Chronic periodontal disease, as it happens, was similarly pervasive in ancient times as we find it today; however, the causes were both similar and different. While gum disease is ultimately caused by the same bacteria and buildup, in ancient Egypt the culprit for was likely nutritional deficiencies caused by periods of famine and drought, which are less prevalent today, though certainly not absent (Forshaw). Evidence suggests their medical knowledge to treat the ensuing diseases was limited, and primarily limited to topical preparations or mouthwash applied to the diseased tissues for short-term relief, rather than long-term treatment. It also appears treatment was targeted toward reducing tooth mobility, rather than addressing the root of the issue.

Turning our attention to another part of the world, there can be significant evidence found from remains in Japan, from a period cited as around 14,500 BC to 12,000 BC. In these ancient peoples there is a significant presence of bone resorption found in older individuals, indicating the presence of periodontal disease. However in this time period (nearly 16,000 years ago!) ‘older individuals’ could refer to some no older than the age of 15. More interestingly yet, 15 year olds could show the same signs of periodontal advancement that we would not see for 20-30 more years in modern populations; it is suggested that this is due to aging faster as a consequence of the physical stresses of their time that we are not accustomed to today (Fujita). Many times, these diseases went untreated due to the infeasibility of extractions or other corrective measures.

Information gained…

There are few conclusions to be drawn from this information, but it certainly is interesting to learn the ways we compare and differ to our predecessors! It is, however, safe to say that a great number of variables play into the prevalence rates of periodontal disease, as well as how that disease is treated. We can also safely acknowledge that we are fortunate to live in a world where we not only understand the causes and stages of gum disease, as well as how to provide efficient treatment to minimize damage and pain. Certainly a few things to think about the next time we are considering skipping the floss (:

Forshaw, R.J. “Dental Health and Disease in Ancient Egypt.” Nature.com. Nature Publishing Group, 25 Apr. 2009. Web.
Hisashi Fujita (2012). Periodontal Diseases in Anthropology, Periodontal Diseases – A Clinician’s Guide, Dr. Jane Manakil (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-307-818-2, InTech. Web.

 

Periodontics and Implants – Diplomat of the American Board of Periodontology

10425 Fair Oaks Boulevard, Suite 102, Fair Oaks, CA 95628

Phone: (916) 965-7444 – Fax: (916) 965-9372

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Healthy Teeth Make for a Healthy Heart

Blog Title- Gum Disease

It’s your dentist’s job to tell you about the health of your mouth, and we know that can get a little dry. But did you realize your oral health may actually affect your heart health?? Although researchers are still establishing exactly how this connection works, there is a lot of evidence to suggest those with gum disease, an advanced form of gingivitis, can actually lead to an increased chance of heart attack or stroke. Although we may not know exactly why gum disease can lead to heart problems, we want our patients to know how to avoid serious health complications (spoiler alert: it has a lot to do with regular brushing and flossing!).

Given the complexity of the human body, it’s an incredibly difficult task to identify and explain direct processes of cause-and-effect; as such, we have been unsuccessful at explaining precisely why and how gum disease and heart disease are linked, but we are aware there is a connection and that it’s in the interest of our health and yours to be familiar with the long-term risks poor dental health can have on the body. Succinctly put, there are tremendous amounts of data that have demonstrated those with compromised oral health and long-term periodontal inflammation are at a significantly higher risk to develop heart disease and increase the likelihood of the individual to suffer from a heart attack or stroke.

At present, the culprits most suspected of triggering this chain reaction are bacteria and inflammation. Some researchers have suggested that due to the vascular nature of the gums, infection and bacteria below the gum line can become dislodged and enter the blood stream with disruption. When this happens it can: trigger inflammation through the body, damage blood vessels, or possibly form clots.

Your blood stream is a direct line to your heart, and the bacteria associated with gum disease can easily find its way into your heart and then cause significant damage. Inflammation, on the other hand, leads to hardened arteries and makes it more difficult for blood flow to reach your heart; this additional strain can easily trigger a heart attack, particularly if you were already susceptible in the first place. Gum disease comes with a handful of standard symptoms, and inflammation is one of the most common. Left untreated, it isn’t too far a stretch to suggest the long-term implications can move beyond your oral health and affect the rest of your body’s systems.

Ultimately the relationship between gum disease and heart disease is primarily based off long-standing conditions; that is to say, if you are diagnosed with gingivitis and visit your dentist to resolve the issue, there isn’t reason to worry about suffering a heart attack. It’s when problems are allowed to progress and fester that there is cause for concern in regards to the long-term damage that may be happening in the body without receiving proper treatment and care.

A study titled Prevalence of Periodontitis in Adults in the United States* estimated that 47.2 percent of American adults have mild, moderate or severe periodontitis. In adults 65 and older, prevalence rates increase to 70.1 percent. It’s an easy thing to miss by yourself, and your dentist can always give you more information about your health. If you are following proper home care treatment, visiting the dentist every 6 months, and have not been informed of any serious issues by the doctor, then there is little cause for concern. As always, if you have absolutely any worries at all about the health of your gums or overall oral health, then call our office for an appointment. It’s always easier and more affordable to treat the problem before it is allowed to take hold. Keep brushing and flossing!

*Eke, P. I., Dye, B. A., Wei, L., Thornton-Evans, G. O., & Genco, R. J. (2012, August 30). Prevalence of periodontitis in adults in the United States: 2009 and 2010 [Electronic version]. Journal of Dental Research, 91(10), 914-920. doi:10.1177/0022034512457373

Periodontics and Implants – Diplomat of the American Board of Periodontology

10425 Fair Oaks Boulevard, Suite 102, Fair Oaks, CA 95628

Phone: (916) 965-7444 – Fax: (916) 965-9372