When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported back in 2012 that approximately half of all Americans over the age of 30 have some degree of gum disease the announcement painted a very bleak picture for the country’s future oral health. The CDC also noted that over 70 percent of adults 65 and older deal with gum disease, confirming the disease only becomes more problematic as people age.
When left untreated, early stage gum disease – commonly referred to as gingivitis – can progress into the far more serious periodontitis. In this form, the disease attacks the underlying bone and connective tissue that hold our teeth into position. The aggressive form of gum disease – called periodontitis – works to destroy the foundation of our oral health, resulting in permanent tooth and bone loss.
At the McGinty Dental Group, we strive to help patients maintain a healthy and functional smile. When it comes to dealing with gum disease, most dentists accomplish this goal by treating the underlying infection, which is caused by plaque and other types of harmful oral bacteria. By treating the cause of the gum disease, dentists can help to further prevent the destruction of bone and gum tissue that maintains our oral health.
However, over the past few years, a number of significant advances have occurred in the treatment of gum disease. Until recently, the most common approach to treating gum disease was through a process of repair. In clinical terms, “repairing” the damage done by gum disease refers to healing a wound by using tissue that does not fully restore the gums back to health. This is what occurs during procedures to treat advanced gum disease, such as gum grafts.
To better understand the concept of repair in treating disease, think of it like patching a tire. You repair the hole in the gum tissue caused by gum disease, but the gums as a whole aren’t fully repaired, simply patched up to the point where they work like normal.
At the McGinty Dental Group, we believe in another type of healing, regeneration, which the American Academy of Periodontology describes as “the reproduction or reconstitution of a lost or injured part.” While this may seem similar to repair, there’s a significant difference. With regeneration, the treatment focuses on promoting self-repair. Instead of placing a patch that helps to repair the situation, we strive to help the body fully regenerate and heal any damage done by the disease, restoring the body back to how it was to begin with.
As a biological dentist, we believe it is always preferable to search for solutions that enable the body to heal on its own, with minimal intervention from the outside. Pioneers in regenerative techniques have worked for decades to discover advances in this revolutionary field of medicine. And while it has taken time to find the answers, the future of regenerative medicine looks very promising thanks to the work of the past.
The Evolution of Regenerative Medicine
One of the biggest breakthroughs in regenerative medicine occurred back in 1957 when researchers were able to show evidence that regeneration wasn’t just theoretical but possible to achieve in a clinical setting. Since this early breakthrough, researchers have focused on developing clinical techniques that enable the body to heal itself.
Two of the most important factors researchers have needed to consider for achieving regeneration are wound stability, which enables the immune system to clot and heal a wound, and giving the body enough space for it to form new gum tissue. With proper blood flow and the space to operate, regenerative medicine believes the body is capable of achieving self-repair.
The current techniques under consideration from researchers in the field of periodontal regeneration include both mechanical and biologic approaches. Studies have examined the use of growth factors and biologically active regenerative materials that include enamel matrix derivative, recombinant human platelet-derived growth factor, platelet-rich plasma, and platelet-rich fibrin.
Additional research is required to further evaluate how these techniques can help to improve the treatment process for patients. But the overall goal of biological dentistry remains the same – to find new methods that encourage eternal repair within the body. Using these and other types of new methods, the future of regenerative medicine looks quite bright.
The Next Evolution
A number of emerging regenerative medicines for the self-repair and regeneration of gum tissue are currently being studied. Examples of these emerging technologies include the application of peptide and protein therapy, cell-based therapy, bone anabolics, genetic therapy and even the use of lasers. Other innovative approaches look to investigate therapies involving the treatment of inflammation, improving the microbiome, and the adaptation of existing therapies into new directions.
Going forward, researchers remain confident that techniques that encourage the body to self-repair hard and soft tissue damaged by gum disease will forever change medicine and how we think of dentistry. As a biological dentist, you can feel assured knowing that our team at McGinty Dental Group will continue to monitor and utilize any of these techniques that are proven to help improve the health of our patients.
When the body repairs itself, it means a happier, healthier and more whole you. That’s our goal at McGinty Dental Group for all of our patients.