These days, there is increasing attention for alternatives to modern medical care, and that includes dental treatments, especially some of the less popular procedures, such as root canals. As surprising as it seems, treatment with leeches, formally known as hirudotherapy, is getting significant attention, including for some unpleasant applications, such as the treatment of gum disease in order to prevent receding gums.

Why Leeches?

The use of leeches seems like a throwback to some of the most primitive medicinal treatments recorded, but, like some other ancient medical treatments, it has some validity to support it. The most common use of leeches in medical treatment is to help salvage tissue flaps or reconstructed tissue that does not have adequate blood outflow. Leaches can remove the excess blood that is pooling in the tissue until the body can develop an adequate blood flow to handle it on its own.

But proponents of hirudotherapy say there are other benefits to using leeches in medical treatment. Leeches have developed a number of mechanisms that help them in their blood-sucking lifestyle. The leech obviously wants blood to keep flowing, so its saliva includes an anticoagulant, which can keep blood flowing. The leech also wants to suppress your immune system response, which could alter the blood flow and potentially attack its tissue, so it has an anti-inflammatory in its saliva, too. Finally, the leech doesn’t want to get infected by its host, so it includes an antiseptic, too.

Theory and Practice of Hirudotherapy for Gum Disease

In theory, attaching leeches to your gums could help with gum disease. The anticoagulant, combined with the leeches’ sucking action, would stimulate the flow of blood to your gums. Since poor blood flow, often related to diabetes or smoking, is associated with an increased gum disease risk, increased blood flow could help your body fight gum disease.

The anti-inflammatory elements in leech saliva could be helpful, too. Since part of the problem in gum disease is your body’s own immune response, reducing the magnitude of your inflammatory response could be very helpful in reducing the damage you suffer from gum disease.

The antibacterial elements in leech’s saliva could also be helpful. Killing off bacteria in the immediate vicinity could potentially be very helpful in reducing gum disease.

Although these theoretical aspects of hirudotherapy seem positive, the truth is that no one has done any real research on whether leeches are effective in the treatment of gum disease or infected teeth.

If you are looking for effective treatment for gum disease and receding gums in Orange County, please call (949) 551-5902 for an appointment at Rice Dentistry in Irvine.