Health Innovators: Garth Ehrlich, PhD

Dr. Dan Sindelar took a few moments at the AAOSH Scientific Session to sit down with Dr. Garth Ehrlich, director of the Center for Genomic Science, to discuss the shift in how the healthcare community views chronic conditions:

“I think the biggest paradigm shift is that many of the conditions that we used to think of as chronic inflammatory conditions are actually chronic bacterial infections,” said Dr. Ehrlich. “The belief developed in the medical and dental communities that these conditions—which couldn’t be treated with antibiotics and where they couldn’t detect bacteria—must have been inflammatory conditions as opposed to infections conditions.”

“We’ve been showing over the past quarter of a century…that these inflammatory conditions are actually chronic infectious conditions caused by bacterial biofilms.”

And oral biofilm is no exception. Dr. Ehrlich has been doing research on the role of periodontal pathogens in the progression of osteoarthritis:

“We have preliminary findings to suggest periodontal pathogens are associated with joints with osteoarthritis. So does that mean that the periodontal pathogens are playing a causative role or an exacerbatory role in osteoarthritis? If that turns out to be the case, that would be revolutionary.”

So what roles have new tools and technology played in the advancement of his research?

Researchers like Dr. Ehrlich are opening our eyes and opening doors for our profession, helping to shift the paradigm of how we look at chronic inflammatory diseases and infectious diseases.

The new tools and technology now available to the dental team now allow us to see what cannot be seen, approaching periodontal disease from a microbial standpoint rather than relying solely on visual signs. And, as Dr. Ehrlich so aptly pointed out, “When you’re no longer under the burden of having to guess what to look for, amazing things come out.”