At Integrative Dentistry one of the first things we do is look for infections in the mouth so that your body and barrier systems remain healthy. What is a barrier system? A barrier system keeps what’s bad for you on the outside rather than getting into your body, or deeper into your body.
Your main barrier systems are your skin, intestinal lining, the placenta, and the blood/brain barrier. They protect your overall health. Your gums are also a barrier system, meant to protect your teeth, jaw bone and the rest of your body from bacteria and microbes that can cause stress to your immune system or infections in certain important organs.
So your gums, along with the lymphatic system in your mouth, are a first line defense system providing protection against foreign invaders. In addition, without healthy gums, you could eventually lose your teeth and the ability to chew. Here are examples that illustrate the breakdown of barrier systems and their effect on our health:
- Leaky Gut: This occurs when the intestinal lining gets inflamed and its barrier system is violated. It can lead to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), or Crohn’s disease. Stress can also be a decisive factor in this breakdown. Other causes can be poor diet, toxicity, chemicals, drugs, heavy metals or imbalance in the microbiome due to antibiotics.
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s: Research shows that once microbes cross the blood brain barrier, they contribute to the inflammatory amyloid plaque found there. The effect of this is similar to the plaque found in our blood vessels, i.e. inflammation. In conditions of the brain, amyloid plaque has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia. One of the most common invasive microbes that can be found in the brain is P. Gingivalis, a key pathogen associated with gum disease. Spirochetes are another, and are among the most aggressive bacteria in the mouth. They can change form to evade an immune response and will bore into cells to replace and destroy healthy tissue. They often contribute to gum disease, as illustrated in this video. Chemicals and heavy metals can also invade the brain when the blood/ brain barrier is violated. This can cause inflammation, breakdown and eventual death of nerves cells in the brain.
- Preterm and Low Weight Birth: When the placental barrier is violated by mercury, which is a heavy metal, it can lead to adverse birth outcomes including preterm birth (PTB: <37 weeks vs 39 weeks gestation) and low birth weight (LBW: <5.5 lbs). This can result in severe infant morbidity and mortality and is the reason that some patients have their mercury levels tested and amalgam fillings removed before becoming pregnant.
Surprisingly, inflammation and infections in the mouth don’t always cause pain. That’s why it’s so important to be actively looking for infections in the mouth or chronic inflammation in the mouth, a condition called gingivitis or gum disease. This may be painless and go undiagnosed for years. If you aren’t going to the dentist for regular check-ups and going to someone who is looking for these kinds of infections, you may be unknowingly harming your immune system, heart or other organs of your body.
And once you find these kinds of infections, you have to know what to do about them and how to get rid of them. What we have found is that laser technology is the best way to treat both infections of the gums or infections in the teeth and jaw. In combination with ozone in some cases, Dr O and Dr Bae have seen resolution and healing while before it was not possible.
At Integrative Dentistry, we feel that any source of pain, inflammation or infection is bad for your overall health as well as your dental health, and needs to be addressed. Often a particular sequencing of treatment is necessary for a successful outcome, so that your dental health can support your overall systemic health. If you want to see if you have any hidden infections in your mouth, please make an appointment with Dr O or Dr Bae to evaluate your gums and/or your old root canals to see if you have any hidden infections that need to be treated and if you are a candidate for laser therapy.
Carey O’Rielly DDS has been a practicing dentist for 35 years. He went to USC Dental School and Duke University for his undergraduate degree. He grew up in Laguna Beach and now lives in La Costa with his wife Victoria, who runs his office.
He began his career by owning and operating a network of six offices in the San Francisco Bay Area. Presently he owns a private holistic practice in North County San Diego’s Encinitas.
Dr. O started looking for solutions to his health challenges that resulted from the stress and environmental toxicity that built up over a ten year period running his dental network. He has dedicated himself to learning about oral systemic problems and how dentistry can affect your health. He has applied what he has learned over the last twenty years to ensure he, his staff and his patients are protected from the chemicals and toxic materials found in most dental offices. He has produced an environmentally friendly office that is also peaceful and calm.
He is an expert on dental materials having looked at hundreds of biocompatibility lab tests over the years. He has identified the most bio-friendly materials to use in his practice and which dental materials can be used to replace metal fillings and crowns, including BPA free and fluoride free ‘white’ fillings. He also uses metal-free Zirconia or ceramic implants and PRF (platelet-rich fibrin) grafting materials which come from the patient’s own blood.
Dr. O’Rielly teaches C.E. courses on the systemic effects of gum disease. He is an expert in using phase contrast microscopy for analyzing dental infections, where he shows patients what kind of microbes, i.e. bacteria, amoeba, and yeasts like candida are populating the mouth and affecting the body as a whole.
He has an educational blog and is writing a book on dental health called ‘Hidden Dental Infections: Healing Root Canals and Infected Teeth with the Erbium Laser’ where he discusses dental nutrition, toxic dental materials and the effects of old root canals on inflammation and overall health.