I have read articles maintaining that periodontal disease can affect one’s
physical health in many ways and not only result in bleeding gums and eventually
tooth loss. But I wonder if this really true.
If it were really
important, wouldn’t dental care for adults be included in the basket of health
services? B.R., Petah Tikva Judy Siegel-Itzkovich replies: Dental care,
including the treatment of periodontal disease, was not included in the basket
of services – not because it isn’t very important to the health of the rest of
the body but because it was regarded by the Treasury as “too
Much research in Israel and around the world has found a
direct link between bleeding gums, gum “pockets” and other signs of periodontal
disease and systemic conditions ranging from cardiovascular disease and
osteoporosis to diabetes and arthritis – and it can even lead to premature
delivery and low birth weight of infants. Thus, even though dental care for
adults is not subsidized by the government, one would be wise to get periodontal
problems treated – by scaling and root planing, drug treatment and/or oral
surgery – as soon as possible.
Prof. Carlos Nemcovsky, a periodontologist
at Tel Aviv University’s School of Dentistry, wrote last year in the
Hebrewlanguage Israeli Journal of Family Practice about the link between gum
disease and systemic disorders. He explained that periodontal disease is a
process of infection and inflammation involving the tissues that support the
teeth in the mouth. This process results in the destruction of the bone and the
periodontal collagen that attaches the teeth to the jaw. Periodontal disease is
common in people over the age of 40, but it can occur at younger ages.
begins as gingivitis, an infection that shows up as inflamed, red and bleeding
gums, he wrote, and this occurs in 50 percent to 90% of the Western world’s
over-40 population. The bleeding occurs when you brush your teeth or eat hard
foods. This condition is usually painless, so many people dismiss it. But if
untreated, it can develop into periodontitis, which affects the tissues that
support the teeth and not only the gums, which recede. X-rays can show the loss
of supportive ligaments and bone. If treated in time by a periodontologist, at
least some of the tissue that has been destroyed can be restored. If not, the
anaerobic bacteria that accumulate in gum pockets grow and thrive and release
Periodontal infections show evidence of leaking into the
bloodstream. In turn, heart disease can result from the development of plaque in
the blood vessels (atherogenesis), Nemcovsky noted. There is a two-way
interaction here. Uncontrolled diabetes can worsen periodontal disease, and
chronic periodontal infection and inflammation can cause a deterioration of the
blood’s sugar-insulin balance; this is especially true in smokers.
there is no clear proof yet, it is believed that osteoporosis (bone-thinning in
the spine and limbs) can result from periodontal disease, while bonethinning can
be a risk factor for periodontal disease as well.
There is solid evidence
that the toxins in the mouth that enter the bloodstream in general can cause
uterine infections and interfere with pregnancy, causing preterm birth. Doctors
increasingly urge women who plan to become pregnant or are in the early stages
to visit a dentist and treat gum infections as soon as possible.
patients in internal medicine and intensive care units very often suffer from
poor oral health, which leads to a risk of bacterial infections that can cause
respiratory problems and even pneumonia.
The TAU specialist said that
autoimmune reactions may result in people who have genetic tendencies, and this
can lead to rheumatic disease and damage to the joints.
and chronic kidney disease may be connected to periodontal disease. A link
between gum disorders and Alzheimer’s disease is suspected, but it has not been
proven. Even though there is only statistical evidence between gum disease and
some other systemic diseases, Nemcovsky concludes, treatment of periodontal
disorders is strongly recommended for the general population and especially for
those with chronic diseases. The Health Ministry would be wise to take
note.A friend sent me an item widely published on the Internet that
presented the many “benefits” of surrounding oneself with fresh onions, as well
as some “risks” from leaving them cut and unused. It is claimed that placing
bowls of onions around can prevent one from getting the flu and to have powerful
antibacterial and antiseptic properties. I was also told that since onions
absorb bacteria and thus are “so good” at preventing us from getting colds and
flu, we shouldn't eat an onion that has been sitting for a time after it has
been cut open. It is not safe even to put sliced, uncooked onion in a zip-lock
bag and eat it after refrigeration, it said. The item claimed it is dangerous to
cut an onion and cook it the next day, even after putting it in a plastic bag
and in the refrigerator, because it becomes “highly poisonous” for even a single
night and creates toxic bacteria, which may cause adverse stomach infections
because of excess bile secretions and even food poisoning.It seemed
rather far-fetched to me. Is there any truth to this?
H.H., New Jersey
Menachem Oberbaum, director of the Center for Integrative Complementary Medicine
at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, replies: The only one who will
benefit from this “approach” is the greengrocer. I can’t understand how an adult
can take this nonsense seriously.Rx for Readers welcomes queries from
readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most
interesting.Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem
91000, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or e-mail it
to firstname.lastname@example.org, giving your initials, age and place of residence.