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Straight Teeth Talk: Teeth infections can spread throughout body

By By Mac Lee
Sept. 4, 2012 at 4:04 a.m.

Photo No. 1

Recently, the office got a call from a person saying how much she enjoyed my dental articles. She requested that the next article cover mouth infections and how harmful they are to other parts of the body. The caller admitted that I have covered it before, but said her daughter needed to hear it. She added, "I hope she will listen to Dr. Lee because she is not listening to me."

This topic is so important that it does need to be said over and over again.

With the help of Photoshop I am going to illustrate how dental infection can destroy bone and invade the blood stream.

X-ray 1 illustrates normal bone level. Not only is the bone at the right level, it is good and dense.

The other two altered X-rays show the bone level dropping like our Texas lakes did last year. The teeth and bones are in "drought" need for sure. Unlike water, bone cannot replace itself. The teeth in picture No. 3, with little or no bone, have no chance for survival and they are spreading infection all over the body.



Body rejects foreign objects

Bacteria-laden objects, like a dirty splinter embedded in the skin, can lead to infection. This infected area will become red and swollen in the body's attempt to reject it. If the splinter is not removed, the body will make sure it is removed via the immune system. When an area becomes so infected that it has pus, be assured this infection spreads to other parts of the body.

It is the same with teeth. When infected, the body thinks they are foreign agents and eats away at the bone until the tooth gets so loose, one can pull it on their own. This infection process is called periodontal disease, and it starts with infection of the gum and then the bone.

When infection touches bone; the bone deteriorates.

This very serious infection doesn't stay isolated in the mouth; it too travels all over the body.

It goes to the weakest part of the body, makes one tired, overworks the immune system and compromises vital organs.



Who is at risk

Science says that gum and bone disease is more serious with people in the following categories:

• Heart disease

• Diabetes

• Pregnant

• Lung problems

• Transplant patients

• Joint replacement

Medical doctors and dentist need to work together more closely in order to help patients be healthier.



Bone loss creates functional problem

Think of these teeth as fence post and the bone is the ground. If you have had any experience with corner posts, you would know the teeth in picture No. 1 are in there solid as a rock. This person is a good candidate for replacing the back missing teeth with a partial denture.

A partial denture is just that, it partially replaces missing teeth but it has to have a good foundation to hold into place.

But what if the teeth in pictures No. 2 and 3 were corner posts? I think it would be unwise to stretch a mile of fence on any of them. These two patients are not candidates for really anything, but extractions.

If extracted, the bone and gum disease would go away the same as when the splinter is removed from the skin. It is really quite basic and easy to understand.



Action plan

If you are not sure whether you have gum or bone disease, it is time to call your dentist for an exam.

If your gums bleed on brushing or flossing, pick up the phone now. More than likely, you will still have a good foundation and the dental/hygiene team will be able to put you back on track and you can be infection free.

If your teeth are loose, your breath is bad and you know they are infected, you now have a medical problem, but one that only a dentist can fix, so please seek help.

Dr. Mac Lee practices in Edna. He is a international speaker to dentists and is an advisor to Dr. Mehmet Oz. To learn more, visit drmaclee.com or call 361-782-7191.

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