Gum Disease Increases Health Risks
Periodontal disease (gum disease), including Gingivitis and Periodontitis, are serious infections that, left untreated, can lead to tooth loss. The word periodontal literally means “around the tooth.” Periodontal disease is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth. Gum disease can affect one tooth or many teeth. It begins when the bacteria in plaque (the sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth) causes the gums to become inflamed.
Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. With time, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. The toxins stimulate a chronic inflammatory response in which the body in essence turns on itself, and the tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down and destroyed. Gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that become infected. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. Often, this destructive process has very mild symptoms. Eventually, teeth can become loose and may have to be removed.
There are many forms of periodontitis. The most common ones include the following:
- Aggressive periodontitis occurs in patients with poor oral dental health. Common features include rapid attachment loss and bone destruction and familial aggregation.
- Chronic periodontitis results in inflammation within the supporting tissues of the teeth, progressive attachment and bone loss. This is the most frequently occurring form of periodontitis and is characterized by pocket formation and/or recession of the gingiva. It is prevalent in adults, but can occur at any age. Progression of attachment loss usually occurs slowly, but periods of rapid progression can occur.
- Periodontitis as a manifestation of systemic diseases often begins at a young age. Systemic conditions such as heart disease, respiratory disease, and diabetes are associated with this form of periodontitis.
- Necrotizing periodontal disease is an infection characterized by necrosis of gingival tissues, periodontal ligament and alveolar bone. These lesions are most commonly observed in individuals with systemic conditions such as HIV infection, malnutrition and immunosuppression. Ref. www.perio.org
The Link Between Periodontal Disease and Heart Disease
Very recent research has shown a strong link between Periodontal disease and heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. One theory is that oral bacteria can affect the heart after entering the bloodstream, attaching to fatty plaques in the coronary arteries, then, contribute to clot formation. Blood clots can obstruct normal blood flow, restricting the amount of nutrients and oxygen required for the heart to function properly which can lead to heart attacks. Inflammation of the gums caused by periodontal disease increases plaque build up, which may contribute to swelling of the arteries.
Researchers have found that people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as people without periodontal disease. For this reason, we take our role as your dental provider very seriously, knowing that your overall good heath depends on it.
Symptoms of Periodontal Disease
Chronic bad breath
Red or swollen gums
Tender or bleeding gums
Receding gums or longer appearing teeth
Causes of Periodontal Disease
Our mouths are full of bacteria. These bacteria, along with mucus and other particles, constantly form a sticky, colorless “plaque” on teeth. Brushing and flossing help get rid of plaque. Plaque that is not removed can harden and form “tartar” that brushing can’t remove. Only a professional clinical hygiene appointment by a dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar.
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums. It causes the gums to become red, swollen, and bleed easily. There is usually little or no discomfort at this stage. Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene. Gingivitis is reversible with professional treatment and good oral care. In the event there is no resolution to gingivitis, it can lead into stages of periodontal disease, which is not reversible.
Risk Factors of Gum Disease
- Smoking. Need another reason to quit smoking? Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors associated with the development of gum disease. Additionally, smoking can lower the chances for successful treatment.
- Hormonal changes in girls/women. These changes can make gums more sensitive and make it easier for gingivitis to develop.
- Diabetes. People with diabetes are at higher risk for developing infections, including gum disease.
- Medications. There are hundreds of prescription and over the counter medications that can reduce the flow of saliva, which has a protective effect on the mouth. Without enough saliva, the mouth is vulnerable to infections such as gum disease. And some medications can cause abnormal overgrowth of the gum tissue; this can make it difficult to keep gums clean.
- Illnesses. Diseases like cancer or AIDS and their treatments can also negatively affect the health of gums.
- Genetic susceptibility. Some people are more prone to severe gum disease than others.
Who Gets Gum Disease
People usually don’t show signs of gum disease until they are in their 30s or 40s. Men are more likely to have gum disease than women. Although teenagers rarely develop periodontitis, they can develop gingivitis, the precursor to gum disease. Most commonly, gum disease develops when plaque is allowed to build up along and under the gum line.
What to do to Prevent Gum Disease
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day (with a fluoride toothpaste). Electric tooth brushes offer the best results.
- Floss every day
- Visit the dentist routinely for a check-up
- Don’t smoke