Peptic Ulcers and Gum Disease: Can You See a Connection? Part 1

Hello to all of our faithful followers and to those of you who are joining for perhaps the first time.  This blog site has a reputation for educating our readers on virtually anything dental, especially as it applies to the overall general health of our readers.  Dr. David Scharf is a Periodontist in Long Island who loves to involve not only his patients but also his blog followers, in how the many biological systems in our bodies work together and depend upon each other for our best health.  A few months ago, we began a topic in an article series on peptic ulcers, part of a more extensive series discussing gum disease and gastrointestinal disease, explicitly showing how they are related. We published two segments on peptic ulcers but, due to some unforeseen issues, could not finish.  Thus, today, we are picking up where we left off…so come along with us as we talk more about gum disease and peptic ulcers.

A Brief Review

In past segments, as well as previous article series, we have talked about inflammation and some of the nightmares it causes in our mouths.  We have related to you the fact that this inflammation begins with bacteria feeding off residues left behind in your mouth from inadequate or infrequent cleanings, tooth brushing, and flossing. Good oral hygiene goes a long way toward hindering the development of this inflammation.

Sores or abrasions that develop in the lining of the stomach or upper part of the small intestine are called peptic ulcers.  The most commonly noted symptom of peptic ulcers are stomach pain, and this is true whether it is a gastric ulcer (occurring on the inside of the stomach) or duodenal (occurring in the upper section of the small intestine).  Here are some of the other symptoms you might notice if you have one of these types of ulcers:

  • A burning feeling of pain in the stomach
  • Feeling like you’re bloated, full, or belching
  • Problems eating fatty foods
  • The burning sensation in your throat that we call “heartburn.”
  • Feelings of nausea which are sometimes transient

Contrary to popular belief,  spicy foods and stress are NOT the root cause of these digestive maladies.  While it is quite true that these activities can certainly exacerbate the symptoms, they simply are not the cause.  

Normal Biology

In our last segment, we talked briefly about the environment in which the causative factors function.  From our last segment…”The digestive system operates using stomach acids to break down and digest what you eat and drink.  The various parts of the digestive system are designed with a mucous lining that is intended to protect the lining of those parts from the strong acids needed for digestion.  A peptic ulcer forms when the stomach acid erodes the inner surfaces of the stomach and small intestine. Normally, the mucus layer protects those inner surfaces from damage, that is, unless something else is interfering with the harmony between the stomach acid and the mucus layer. When that sensitive balance is upset, it is generally caused by an increased amount of stomach acid in the system or a decrease in the mucus layer…”

A Bacterium

Today, we will talk about one of the causes — a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H-pylori).  This bacterium lives in the lining of the stomach, those protective mucous layers that were talked about in previous segments.  H-pylori can live in that mucous layer without causing any problems at all, but sometimes it rears its ugly head and causes inflammation of the inner lining of the stomach, enter the aforementioned ulcer.  While modern medicine isn’t sure just exactly how this infection is spread from person to person, they suspect that kissing and other forms of close contact, as well as food and water, could cause the spread of this infection.  This particular bacterial infection is treatable with a “triple antibiotic” regimen which will be discussed in a later segment.

Next time, we’ll talk about another cause which may surprise you.  In the meantime, we would like to remind you that good oral hygiene and regular checkups are essential to a healthy mouth.  Dr. Scharf wants to be your Periodontist on Long Island and, in that role, he can identify and treat gum disease in any stage of development in any member of your family.  Contact us and let us tell you how we can treat gum disease with a laser rather than a scalpel.

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