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Straight Teeth Talk: Healthy mouth is a gateway to healthy body

July 5, 2011 at 2:05 a.m.

Diabetic man with infected teeth.

By Mac Lee, DDS

This is the story of a diabetic man who was able to drastically decrease his insulin intake by having infected teeth removed.

In addition to having a history of uncontrolled diabetes, this patient had open heart surgery in 1997 and was recently diagnosed with glaucoma.

He and his specialist worked for years to get his blood sugar stabilized, without good results.

What makes this story special is that just 10 days after having dental surgery the patient had a low sugar attack that required the family to call EMS. Two days later his physician determined his current insulin dosage was now too strong.

For years, the insulin had to battle the diabetes and the infection. Once the infection was removed, the dosage was too high. The patient dropped his fast-acting diabetic medication from 10 units to six and his slow-acting from 58 to 44 units.

Better yet, six months later, the patient feels much better and is keeping his sugar stable at the lower dosage.

How could these results be so dramatic? If you look at the picture and the area between the two front teeth, you will see a yellow glob. This is pus that is draining right out of the gum tissue. If I were to wipe off the puss and then push on the teeth, it would ooze out again.

Every time this person bites down, swallows or eats, the infection is pushed into the mouth and the blood stream. This is now a dangerous medical situation.

After seeing this powerful photo, you might assume it was pain that drove him to make a dental appointment. That was not the case. The danger of gum disease is that it usually does not involve pain.

This patient was smart enough to know his teeth were bad and were contributing to his diabetic problem.

Being a third-generation dentist has given me somewhat of a head start on the importance of the mouth-body connection. A hundred years ago, my grandfather felt that an infection from a tooth would attack the weakest part of the body. He taught this correlation to my father, and my father taught me. Now, science is backing up what we always knew to be true. Your mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body, and a healthy mouth equals a healthy body.

If you have diabetes, heart disease, joint replacements, arthritis or are pregnant, it is important to see your dentist as well as your medical specialist.

As the old jingle goes, "The foot bone is connected to leg bone." this holds true as well for the mouth. A tooth or gum infection does not isolate itself to the mouth.

Mac Lee is a dentist in practice in Edna. He is the co-founder of Dentists Who Care, a national movement to educate the public on modern dentistry. If you have dental questions you can call him at 361-782-7191 or visit him at www.drmaclee.com.

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