Joint replacement is a remarkable medical procedure that is becoming routine in our time. Just think of that phrase “joint replacement”. The fact that surgically a failing knee, shoulder or hip can be removed and replaced is something to marvel at.
But, many times patients who have these procedures ignore what can potentially cause the failure of these new joints and require re-replacement. Periodontal disease (infection of the gums and supportive bone) is a silent disease that in many cases has no symptoms for the patient until it’s well advanced. This disease is typified by bacteria at and below the gum line that causes inflammation around the teeth forming gum pockets. In a healthy individual, gum pockets are small, anywhere from 1 to 3 millimeters which can easily be cleansed with a toothbrush and floss. However, when the gum pockets get deeper, 4-5 millimeters or more, it becomes very difficult for the patient to clean down to the base of the pocket and the bacteria that remain will continue to grow and destroy supportive bone, gum tissue and very importantly enter the bloodstream. Heavy levels of bacteria that enter the bloodstream from periodontal pockets travel throughout the body and are linked to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes and lung disease. The other effect this bacteria has in the bloodstream is to weaken the immune system as well making your body fight harder to overcome other maladies. Also, for the purposes of this discussion the blood borne bacteria can travel to the new or existing prosthetic joint and over time weaken it or necessitate replacement.
I recommend that anyone considering joint replacement therapy visit their dentist for a careful examination and screening for periodontal disease or any other type of infection that may be present and could contribute to joint complications or failure. It seems like a small price to pay to eliminate a large potential threat to new joints but also to your health in general. Many orthopedic surgeons are diligent with their patient care and will not do the surgery until they’ve seen a dentist and are certain that there is no infection present in the mouth. I just had a patient in today that had two abscessed teeth and seeking treatment to eliminate this infection because of a pending knee replacement surgery next month. She actually said “I’ve been waiting 10 years to get this knee replaced I’m not taking any chances that it will fail!”
Periodontal disease is silent and if unchecked can slowly progress and as we’ve seen be harmful to more than just your teeth. If you are uncertain make an appointment with your Dental professional and have a thorough examination of your teeth and gum structures.
– Dr. Charles McCarroll, DDS