Oral Health & Lyme Disease: A Two-Way Street
Summertime is outdoor time, and here in New Jersey, that also means a time when you’re more likely to meet up with the deer ticks that carry B. burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Up to half of those ticks carry it – one reason why our state ranks close to the top in Lyme cases each year.
And it’s not necessarily a straightforward disease. In fact, it’s sometimes called “The Great Pretender” because it can look like other illnesses, such as MS, Parkinson’s, fibromyalgia, ALS, or chronic fatigue. Classic symptoms such as the bulls-eye rash may not even appear at all. The infection can bring on neurological symptoms in one person, autoimmune effects in another.
It has a number of oral health connections, as well.
Oral Symptoms that Can Accompany Lyme Disease
For one, Lyme can trigger pain in the head, neck, and face. Sometimes, the face pain can be related to neurological issues. Other times, the pain resembles a temporomandibular disorder, or TMD. (Many people refer to TMDs – incorrectly – as “TMJ.” “TMJ” is just the abbreviation of the joints involved in these conditions: the temporomandibular joints.)
Other oral symptoms that can accompany Lyme disease include face pain related to neurological issues, burning mouth syndrome, dry mouth, bad breath despite excellent hygiene, tooth sensitivity, pulpitis (an inflamed dental pulp), and Bell’s palsy (facial paralysis).
But this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the relationship between Lyme and oral health.
So Much Infection: Gum Disease & Lyme Disease
- burgdorferi isn’t just any old kind of bacterium. It’s a spirochete: a microbe with long, spiral-shaped cells and that often thrives in low-oxygen environments. We find a great many spirochetes in the mouths of people with gum disease – another condition marked by chronic inflammation. This can worsen infections related to Lyme.
Simply, your body has only so many resources to battle infection. If most of them have been battling an oral infection such as periodontitis (severe gum disease), there are fewer resources to fight B. burgdorferi – and vice versa.
At the same time, Lyme patients are usually given many antibiotics to fight the infection. While they can be effective against Lyme, they’re also well known for damaging the microbiome, killing helpful bacteria along with the harmful. One result of this is a further weakening of immune function and even greater inflammation through mouth and body alike.
Some Dental Situations Can Look Like Lyme
Some dental situations can generate symptoms that can look suspiciously like Lyme. Indeed, they’ve been implicated by some as a potential cause of “chronic Lyme,” a condition more accurately called “post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome” (PTLDS), since it refers to Lyme symptoms that linger long after the initial infection has been resolved.
The most common of these is the presence of “silver” mercury amalgam fillings, as dental toxicity frequently triggers symptoms you wouldn’t normally associate with oral health. Other metals used in dentistry present similar problems, such as titanium and stainless steel. Used for things like implants, crowns, and braces, these metals are actually alloys. They frequently contain toxic metals such as nickel, chromium, and aluminum.
Again, if your body is constantly busy with dealing with these metals and their effects, it is less able to deal with a B. burgdorferi infection. The result is often a strengthening of Lyme symptoms.
The situation is similar if you have residual infection in root canal treated teeth, which can include B. burgdorferi. Such infection is actually quite common, since conventional disinfection methods can’t disinfect the miles of microscopic tubules that make up a tooth’s dentin (the layer of tissue between the enamel and the living pulp inside the tooth). These are perfect hideouts for all kinds of microbes, which get sealed within the tooth once its pulp has been removed.
If You Have Lyme Disease
If you have Lyme or PTLDS, it’s vital that you address any oral toxicities as part of your treatment. By clearing up the dental issues, better healing from Lyme can result. You strengthen your body’s ability to deal with systemic issues.
Note, though: It’s not just about treating any oral infections related to Lyme Disease by removing old mercury fillings or infected root canal teeth. It’s also about supporting your body’s ability to detox and robust immune function so you can heal. This is why, in our office, we utilize special dental technologies and unique protocols to diagnose and treat the root cause of a problem to maintain and prevent oral and systemic health conditions.
At the Holistic Dental Center of New Jersey, we routinely check a patient’s oral bacteria – in the case of Lyme we can identify spirochetes in addition to other oral pathogens to effectively reduce the bacterial load to support whole body health. Our biological dental treatments typically include elective IV therapies, as well as our proprietary detox protocol, which uses natural supplements and remedies.
Give the body what it needs, and it can heal as it was designed to do.
Call us today 973-718-5104 to schedule your visit or request an appointment online.