Are your gums out to get you?

It seems that the root of all evil stems from the mouth; more specifically, the gums.

Over the years, periodontal disease has been linked to every thing from impotence, to heart disease, to cancer.

And now, far fetched as it may sound, gum disease may be linked to failed orthopedic implants. Yes, you read right – the implants used to rebuild your granny’s hip.

While you may be thinking: “Who on God’s green Earth decided to examine whether or not a person’s infected artificial knee was caused by their teeth?” – and you’d have a point – there’s actually a serious case to be made.

According to a study conducted by scientists at the University of Arkansas and the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2007, bacteria that enter the bloodstream via the bleeding gums caused by periodontal disease can cause infections in artificial joints. These infections, as the study states “can be potentially devastating.”

Callan, Evans, Cobb. Periodontal disease, bacteremia, and orthopedic surgery

And now, in English: Basically, our mouth is full of bacteria – approximately 6 billion kinds, to be exact. When you don’t brush your teeth (or forget to as you’re running out the door to catch the bus) this bacteria, along with mucus and other particles (isn’t your mouth lovely?) accumulates into plaque on your teeth. The longer this plaque stays on your teeth, the more likely it is to cause gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums. If that goes untreated too long, it can develop into periodontitis, which is what the study above is referring to.

Periodontitis causes the inflamed gums to recede from the teeth and form little pockets, ideal for bacteria squatters to take up residence in. As the body fights off the plaque that has settled below the gums, it also destroys the bones and tissue that hold the teeth in place, causing them to listen.

The study, published in Grand Rounds in Oral Systemic Medicine, noted that patients with periodontal disease were more likely to have a higher rate of bacteremia (bacteria in the blood) than those with healthy gums.

When patients are at risk for systemic complications from oral bacteremia, it is common for dentists to prescribe prophylactic antibiotics. See the suggested prescription guidelines on the right.

According to the study, this will become an even more important measure as the population ages and becomes more likely to need joint replacement.

However, the main observation of the study is that because prophylactic antibiotics are only prescribed when the patient is thought to be at risk, in addition to the violent nature of the bacteria associated with periodontal disease, it is essential that patients be examined by a dentist before undergoing elective orthopedic surgery.

Just stay away from the novocaine…

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2 Responses to “Are your gums out to get you?”

  1. “Are your gums out to get you?” The Title itself makes us interested to look into the matter in deep… I just gone through the blog and it was really an informative stuff…I hope people will find this blog helpful… good job..

  2. Sheldon Katke says:

    Excellent article and answers! Thank you, this clarifies several things very well.

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