Holistic Oral Health Debunked: Part 4

“90% of all heart attacks are initially caused by oral pathogens.”

This is the last and perhaps most audacious claim that is made by proponents of the “Holistic Oral Health Summit” that took place a few weeks ago that I will address in this series.

While there is significant evidence that inflammation does contribute to heart disease, the 90% number is just plain unsubstantiated. And, making such outrageous claims belies the underlying kernel of the truth it contains and reduces the credibility of those associated with such statements.

Inflammation is the current buzz word that is blamed for nearly every malady from heart disease to autoimmune diseases and Alzheimer’s disease. And, there’s some really good science behind these claims. There is ample evidence of an association, not direct causation.  

But, let’s not take our eyes off the ball or be distracted by the sensationalism of the claim. Many of these diseases, like heart disease, have multiple contributory causes with inflammation probably being just one of several. What about sleep and breathing issues? What about stress? What about genetics? What about diet? And, what about SMOKING? See what I mean? 90%? Hogwash!

But what about these “oral pathogens” they refer to?

We do know that bad bacteria (oral pathogens) are found regularly in the mouth. We get these, most often, from our parents. We used to think that gum disease was hereditary. It’s actually communicable (transmissible) with the bad bacteria that cause gum disease transmitted from parents to children (and others with whom we exchange saliva).

Once in the mouth, some of these dangerous bacteria set up home and can thrive under certain conditions. The environment in the mouth and the nutrients available to these bacteria as well as the host’s immune system will determine if and when these bacteria will cause a problem.

And, the problem they can cause is “inflammation”. There it is again, that buzz word.

For me, looking at causes is always the first step to finding a solution or even preventing a problem. Here again, is where having a bacteria profile taken makes a lot of sense. Wouldn’t it be important to know if you have “high risk” bacteria laying in wait in your system that, under certain circumstances, could contribute to not just gum disease, but heart disease, cancers, diabetes, autoimmune diseases and even Alzheimer’s disease?

People ask me: OK, what do I do if I have these bad bacteria?

The answer is to change the environment that promotes their growth. And, that varies from individual to individual. Developing a personalized, customized program of bacterial reduction is something we at Manhattan Dental Health have been doing for years.

But, the first step is to get the bacteria profile taken. The second step is to get the customized plan. The third is to comply with the recommendations and the fourth step is to retest to confirm that there has been a positive change.

The other question we get asked a lot is: “Can’t I just take some antibiotics?”

Sure you could, but that would be like trying to kill a mosquito with an F-18 fighter jet. Antibiotics are too widely used and should be reserved for the most serious infections. Besides, antibiotics kill good bacteria along with the bad. And, we need the good bacteria!

Manhattan Dental Health promotes a sound, cause-finding, sensible, risk assessing and conservative approach to oral health and overall wellness. I dislike names and categorizations such as “Holistic”. I prefer to think of how I practice as just plain good dental medicine. It’s what originally drew me to go to Tufts Dental School and get a Dentariae Medicinae Doctoris or D.M.D. degree. At its best, dentistry is a subspecialty of medicine just as the mouth is a part of the body. Looking at the “big picture” is what truly makes Manhattan Dental Health different.

Sometimes, looking at the “BIG” picture requires looking at the smallest things such as your bacteria profile. Take the first step to possibly preventing a heart attack and other illnesses by taking a look at your bacteria profile.

Knowledge is Power.

To everyone’s excellent health and wellness,
Michael