Dr. Phillip Sheridan on Dental Problems and Gum Disease

This Mayo Clinic Medical Edge Weekend features Mayo Clinic physician Dr. Phillip Sheridan on dental problems and gum disease.

Medical Edge Weekend 1-30-10


    Posted January 24, 2010 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    If eyes be the windows to the soul and doctors can detect illness by looking into the eyes of his patients, can dentists do the same by looking at the state of his patients’ teeth and gums? For instance, tooth decay, fillings, are these connected in some way to diseases in the body that affect muscles, ligaments, even cartilage? What about a gold filling? Is this safe? Untreated abscesses, do these lead to diseases of the spine?

    • jstreed
      Posted January 31, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      Tooth decay and fillings are most likely not the cause of diseases that affect the muscles or ligaments or cartilage. Fillings can sometimes cause localized reactions within the mouth. If the gold ring on your finger or your earrings cause crusting or weeping of the skin, fillings containing these same metals will cause a reaction in the gums or skin within your mouth. The inflammation associated with gum disease (periodontitis) is thought by some to be a cause for heart disease and low birth weight babies. There seems to be a definite relationship between diabetes and gum disease. Bacteria from untreated abscess do get into the blood stream and can travel to the heart and infect defective or replacement heart valves and can travel to and infect artificial hip and knee joints. If bacteria travel to the brain, the infection can be fatal. Dental diseases can sometimes have very dire consequences. During an examination of the mouth dentists looks very carefully for any evidence of oral cancer. This is extremely important because the 5 year survival rate for oral cancer is about 50%. We have to find and treat oral cancer as early as possible. Your dentist might save your life.

  2. Regina
    Posted January 29, 2010 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Question for the dental program Saturday. Can the affects of gum disease on health be reversed by adhering to proper dental care, including regular periodontal maintainence, flossing, etc.?

    • jstreed
      Posted February 4, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      The answer is a qualified yes. You are describing non surgical periodontal therapy which works very well for many patients. If however, bone loss has occurred and deep pockets are present and the gums cannot be maintained in a state of health and the situation continues to deteriorate, periodontal surgery may be the only alternative. You need to work closely with your dentist and hygienist if non surgical therapy is to be successful.

  3. manoj
    Posted January 29, 2010 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    My mouth smells and gum bleeds ocassionally. I am obese. What are the causes for above and consequences and remedies. Thank you.

    • jstreed
      Posted February 4, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      There are many possible causes for malodor. You indicate that you are obese. Are you diabetic? Obesity raises the risk of diabetes and there are some aspects of diabetes which could explain the odor. The gums bleeding is not normal. Bleeding gums are a sign of inflammation which could also be caused by a number of things. A visit with the dentist and hygienist would be a good place to start answering some of these questions.

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