Uncovering Hidden Infections

I recently read “Hidden Epidemic: Silent Oral Infections Cause Most Heart Attacks and Breast Cancers” by Dr. Thomas E. Levy, M.D.

Hidden Epidemic is a book that I would recommend, especially to my dental and medical colleagues.

Dr. Levy is a cardiologist who got his “second” education from Dr. Hal Huggins, DDS. Dr. Huggins was the modern pioneer in biological dentistry. Over the course of about twenty years, Dr. Huggins opened Dr. Levy’s eyes to the impact the mouth has on disease. Since his first encounter with Dr. Huggins, Dr. Levy has written many books on dentally related topics. In Hidden Epidemics, he lays out the case for oral infections being responsible for most heart attacks and breast cancers.

Oral Disease and its Systemic Effects

Almost daily, a new study comes out demonstrating that people with periodontal disease have a higher incidence of various diseases and medical conditions such as dementia, pancreatic cancer, lung cancer, low birth weight babies, heart disease, and the lists go on. Usually, the person is unaware of their periodontal problem. In our office, we take a plaque sample from under the gum and look at it under a microscope. Too often, the gums visually look ok, but under the microscope, they are teeming with bacteria and amoeba = silent infection! Modern studies confirm that the same bacteria typically found in the periodontal infection of a patient are also found in the blood clots causing myocardial infarction. Also, the same profiled bacteria are found in coronary atherosclerotic plaques. Studies show that the same bacteria profile as in a diseased periodontal pocket is the same in root-canaled teeth. Therefore, one can deduce that all the research linking periodontal diseases to various diseases can also apply to root-canaled teeth. Of course, we know this from all the research done on root canals many years ago by Dr. Weston Price.

Oxidative Stress

Toxins, including the ones from periodontal disease and root-canaled teeth, cause oxidative stress. This increase in extra intracellular oxidative stress is the cause of chronic inflammation that underlies all diseases. To review, at all levels in our body, there is a constant exchange of electrons. Oxidation is the taking of electrons, and Reduction is the giving of electrons. In normal biology, something will take an electron but then give it up in an on-going dance. What makes a toxin a toxin is that the toxin captures an electron and DOES NOT give it up. Health equates with optimal electron flow. The greater the oxidation rate versus the reduction rate, the higher the oxidative stress; this reflects different degrees of physiological imbalance. We take antioxidants to help such an imbalance and thus decrease oxidative stress.

Anything that increases oxidative stress increases overall mortality. Therefore, the goal is to reduce oxidative stress. The primary way to do this is by reducing the source of toxins. As discussed in his book, Dr. Levy finds the primary source of toxins to be environmental, supplementing with calcium, copper, or iron (unless testing shows a need), tonsils, sinuses, cavitations, infected gums, and root canals.

Finding Hidden Infections

Dr. Levy is a strong advocate for 3D Cone Beam Imaging. The reason for this is its ability to find silent, hidden infections around teeth that have been root canaled and, more importantly, around teeth that are asymptomatic and have never been root canaled. Studies show that teeth with Chronic Apical Periodontitis (CAP) will be detected on regular x-rays 40-70% of the time. With 3D imaging, the percentage of detection increases to over 90%. Remember, all root canal teeth are infected; it is the pathology that we are looking for on x-rays. Teeth that appear as normal on a panoramic or periapical x-ray are more likely to show a problem in a 3D scan.

Dr. Levy presents research that shows there is a high percentage of these hidden infections. First of all, one-third of adults have at least one root canal. As Dr. Levy points out, and as I have previously written, all root-canaled teeth are infected. How much of an impact a root canaled tooth (teeth) will have on your health is a matter of your being able to quarantine the toxins. A radiolucent area (an area of infection) found around a tooth,( with or without a root canal), is called CAP. Dr. Levy cites numerous studies showing how prevalent CAP is. One study done in Manhattan showed CAP in 38% in root-canaled teeth and 5.1% CAP in teeth with no root canals. These percentages were typical and often lower in comparison with studies around the world. Most of these studies were done without 3D imaging. Imagine how many people are being negatively affected by these hidden infections! Dr. Levy says that a CAP non-root-canaled tooth is even more toxic than one with a root canal.

Other Hidden Infections

Dr. Levy discusses other hidden infections from cavitations, sinuses, and tonsils. He presents the work of Dr. Josef Issels, M.D., and his treatment of approximately 5,000 cancer patients. Dr. Issels’ cure rate dramatically increased when, in addition to extracting all the root-canaled teeth, he removed the tonsils in every patient. Dr. Issels found that 98% of his adult advanced cancer patients had between two and ten dead teeth (dead teeth meaning root-canaled teeth or non-root canaled teeth with CAP.) Dr. Levy also explains about how teeth with CAP have their roots in or abutting the sinuses, thus contributing to chronic sinus issues.

All in all, Hidden Epidemic was a great book. This book reinforced that installing a 3D cone beam scanner in our office was a prudent decision. Approximately every five years, we take a panoramic x-ray to get a full view of the upper and lower jaws as well as the sinus looking for any hidden infections. I have been giving my patients the choice of a 2D panoramic x-ray or the 3D cone beam. After reading this book, I realize that it is the best interest of the patient only to offer a 3D scan. To ensure accuracy in reading this high-tech scan, all my patient scans are sent to a radiologist. The learning journey continues.

In my book, Whole-Body Dentistry: A Complete Guide to Understanding the Impact of Dentistry on Total Health, I discuss the work of both Dr. Weston Price on root canals and Dr. Josef Issels’ work on tonsils.

© 2020, Mark A. Breiner, DDS

The information presented is for educational purposes only. Please consult a qualified dentist or health practitioner for diagnosis and treatment.

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