Chronic Fatigue and Gum Disease

Gum Disease and Illness

Anyone affected by chronic fatigue will know that there’s nothing more debilitating than this condition. You feel tired all the time, even when you have had sufficient sleep and you find it impossible to live a normal life. There are so many things you would love to do, but don’t have the energy. You just feel too tired. There is no proven treatment for chronic fatigue and most doctors will tell you to just relax more or learn to manage stress better.

In my profession as a dentist I am aware that 85% of Americans suffer from gum disease and many of my patients present with chronic fatigue symptoms to one degree or another, if not chronic fatigue syndrome, which has led me to seek a connection.

This interest has also been kindled because the most common response I experience after improving a patients oral health is the patient having more energy.

Is there a war going on in your mouth?

Most people have little idea about the contagious and deadly war going on in their mouth, yet alone how this is linked to health problems and even chronic fatigue. I am talking about periodontal (gum) disease. Periodontal means around the tooth and gum disease is generally known as gingivitis, periodontitis or pyorrhea.

Gum disease can affect one tooth or many teeth and it starts when the bacteria in plaque, which is continuously forming a film on your teeth, causes the gums to become infected and inflamed. Although often caused by inadequate oral hygiene, you are wrong to think this won’t happen to you because you brush and floss daily. Billions of bacteria breed each day despite all your efforts. Therefore, it is imperative to your health to get your gums checked regularly.

As a dentist, I find it hard to digest that the medical profession will take any other sort of infection in the body seriously, except gum disease. This fact often leaves people sadly lacking in information. Many think it’s normal that their gums bleed and some will even accept teeth falling out without connecting this to gum disease.

Yet with time, plaque may spread and grow and the toxins stimulate a chronic inflammatory response causing the body to turn on itself, as the germs migrate into the bloodstream. It is known that this can increase the risk of heart problems by 300% and can also increase the risks of kidney disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory disease, low birth rate in infants and arthritis.

Types of Dentistry

Dentistry approaches vary, so before looking further into the connection between gum disease and chronic fatigue, I would like to spend a little time in comparison.

Traditional Dentist

  • A traditional dentist will look at the gums to see the progress of the disease and will probe to determine the pocket depth. He will scale to remove the hardened calcified plaque, generally referred to as tartar or calculus, so that healing can start.
  • If advanced he may tell you that you need surgery to cut some tissue away, but this is not getting to the root cause.

Biological Dentist

  • A biological dentist is concerned with treating the root cause rather than just the symptoms and considers the microscope a valuable tool for assessing the progress of treatment. Gum disease is not the only cause of bleeding and this objective approach looks for spirochetes, amoeba and other bacteria.
  • He may also take a fluid sample from around the gum tissue and sent it off for a DNA lab test to find out exactly what the bugs are. DNA samples can also indicate whether the patient is genetically susceptible to gum disease.
  • He will encourage pH testing of saliva and urine to see if your urine is acid, which would make you more susceptible to disease, and if your saliva is acid, which would make your teeth more likely to rot.
  • A biological dentist is concerned with a more comprehensive approach and sees gum disease as a central concern, which leads to medical disease.
  • He may recommend an antiseptic or antibacterial rinse, more flossing and brushing, electric toothbrush and water irrigation to keep the build up down.
  • He will take a look at your lifestyle and consider factors such as stress, alcohol, smoking and dietary factors.

How Gum Disease May Lead To Chronic Fatigue

When considering the physiological changes in the body that might lead to chronic fatigue, I found four major issues. Naturally, sleep deprivation and other things are relative, but I am going to talk specifically about gum disease here:

  • When considering any chronic infection, gum disease or otherwise, there will be an increase in the white blood cell count. This means there will also be less red blood cells circulating through your body. As the red blood cells carry oxygen to every cell in the body, it is simple to conclude that an insufficiency is bound to create some fatigue.
  • This also means the immune system will be affected, because when it is on guard full time, it is bound to create stress and fatigue in the body.
  • It is well known that chronic infection affects the clotting mechanism of the blood, so that it becomes thicker (hyper-coagulation). This means the thicker the blood, the harder the heart will need to pump in order to push the blood through the same size blood vessels. It’s a natural conclusion that if the heart is working overtime beating faster and harder to circulate the blood that it’s going to create some fatigue in the body.
  • Chronic infection will produce free radicals and instigate the body’s natural defense mechanism. The body will need to use many mechanisms to scavenge these free radicals, which will require some energy production.
  • This type of infection affects the major organs in the body, particularly the heart and the pancreas, creating cardiovascular disease and diabetes. With diabetes comes poor circulation and where there is poor circulation, more infections are likely, which will have a more debilitating affect on the whole body. In this way it is easy to conclude how having aggressive bacteria in the mouth can easily go into the blood stream, affect every cell and cause fatigue.

When I worked as a traditional dentist I received very few reports of an improvement in energy and people feeling healthier. But now, as a biological or holistic dentist, I feel so motivated because I get many reports of improved health and energy.

If this sounds too simplistic to you, then you are probably wondering “WHY?”

If there is a connection between gum disease and chronic fatigue and it is so vast, why isn’t it being healed?

We live in an age of new technology and are considered medically advanced, so “WHY?”

Brief History of Dentistry

Interestingly, Chinese medicine works under a different premise than Western medicine and the mouth is considered a most central part of healing. However, one of the main reasons that our medical profession fails to recognize the importance of gum disease is that they don’t connect the mouth with the body. The dental profession developed as barber surgeons with the same person cutting your hair, as taking your teeth out. They weren’t medical people and so didn’t progress on even paths.

As dentistry evolved, training included all aspects of medicine including anatomy, physiology and microbiology and progressively became more technical with importance placed on working on teeth, making better crowns and teaching patients how to brush and floss better.

Despite this, traditional dentistry is somewhat lacking in that it sees and treats only the mouth rather than treating the whole person. Instead of allowing the body to heal itself, if gum disease appeared untreatable, then it would be cut out.

After Gum Disease!

I’m not saying that you should have the expectation that if you take care of gum disease, you will automatically heal your chronic fatigue, as it’s likely to be multiple things that that lead to healing rather than any single approach. However, holistic dentistry takes a multi-factorial approach to treat gum disease at the same time as it treats the whole body. This can also include nutrition, acupuncture and even mind-body healing.

Some people may experience a good outcome with better oral health because they are already doing lots of other things. Perhaps they eat well, exercise, or meditate, which could make a difference.

I can only offer my personal experience and encourage people to seek information about gum disease, especially if they are suffering from chronic fatigue. I believe this is the missing link to healing this condition as it removes a load from the body and gives the body an opportunity to repair and restore itself.

The missing factor in the medical and dental field is the link between the two and dentistry is the missing link that may explain why so many people die of a heart attack, at a very young age, for no particular reason. You owe it to yourself to learn more, so that you can avoid future problems!