We frequently talk about how many oral bacteria can travel through the body to colonize other locations, but here’s a striking statistic to drive the point home: perhaps 13% of infections following knee replacement surgery are caused by oral bacteria. That’s right, your knee. Infected by bacteria from your mouth.
Once you realize that, it’s perhaps not a surprise that treating gum disease can actually lower the risk of infections following knee replacement surgery.
For this study, researchers looked at nearly 1300 people who had to have their knee replacement redone because of infection and compared them to over 5000 matched controls to determine the relative risk and benefit related to gum disease and gum disease treatment, specifically dental scaling. Dental scaling is a cleaning procedure where we remove the hardened tartar from your teeth. This tartar provides shelter for oral bacteria and makes it hard for your gums to maintain healthy connections with your teeth. Scaling is typically considered a normal part of a checkup and hygiene visit and an essential part of preventive dentistry.
They found that patients who received at least on scaling treatment in the three years prior to their knee replacement had a 20% lower risk of knee infection than those who had not. Even more importantly, those who had regular scalings, 5-6 times in the previous three years (i.e. once every six months) had an even lower risk of infections: their risk was reduced by 31%.
This research enters a fraught debate on how to reduce the risk of infections related to oral bacteria following knee and other joint replacement surgery. Past recommendations have focused on the use of antibiotics around dental procedures to combat the spread of bacteria through the blood.
However, the American Dental Association (ADA) is now recommending against this because there is no strong evidence that it works. If you have gum disease, bacteria enter your blood every day, not just when you have a dental procedure. And with the risk of growing resistance to antibiotics, it seems best to avoid them whenever possible.
By lowering the level of bacteria in the gums through frequent scalings, gum disease treatment will actually reduce the number of bacteria passing through the body at any time, significantly reducing the risk of infection.
Oral bacteria aren’t just a threat to your teeth, they’re a threat to your entire body. Not only are they capable of spreading through your blood, they can also trigger abnormal immune responses that lead to autoimmune disorders. Keeping these bacteria under control with regular preventive dental visits can help. If you are looking for a Beverly Hills periodontist to help control your oral bacteria and reduce your risk of infection, please call (310) 275-5325 today for an appointment at Nicolas A. Ravon, DDS, MSD.