Unless a person gets educated about dental health, they can take their teeth and oral health for granted. Serious dental problems often don’t show up until later in life, so it’s easy to be lulled into the idea that teeth will last forever with minimal care. When something does happen, it can come as quite a shock.
One of the most important things to watch for is gum disease. This can impact every aspect of your overall health. In fact, studies have shown that your oral health is directly related to your body’s overall resistance to disease and even the health of your heart!
What is Gum Disease?
Most people understand the need for regular teeth cleanings and treatment for cavities. However, they may not know much about gum disease, also called “periodontal disease.” The word periodontal comes from “peri” meaning “around or enclosing” and “odont” from the Greek word for teeth.
Periodontal disease refers to diseases that affect the parts of your mouth which surround and support your teeth. Early disease is called gingivitis and advanced problems are called periodontitis.
Gingivitis is when gums become red, swollen and bleed easily. A person usually spits some blood when brushing teeth. This is often reversible with good home care and some professional treatment. (“Gingiva” is the technical name for the gums.)
Untreated gingivitis may advance to “periodontitis.” At this point, toxins produced by plaque on the teeth have irritated the gums. This causes an inflammatory response which begins to break down the bone supporting the teeth. Gums separate from the teeth and this forms pockets around the teeth where infection sets in. This causes serious dental problems, including tooth loss and much more.
Gum disease begins to weaken the entire structure of your teeth. They become loose because they lack the firm support of the rest of your mouth. You wouldn’t build a house on a foundation of sand. Likewise, you can’t have strong teeth on a weak foundation caused by gum disease.
However, gum disease doesn’t just affect your mouth. It can impact your whole body.
Overall Immunity and Heart Disease
A person with periodontitis has harmful bacteria growing under his gums, out of reach of his toothbrush. His body will do its best to fight this infection, but can only fight so much infection at one time. If another infection is present elsewhere in his body, he may not have the resources to beat it. This can cause health problems to become worse than they otherwise would. Bronchitis could advance to pneumonia, for example, because the immune system was already overloaded by infections in the mouth.
Additionally, a person whose body is struggling with periodontitis may also suffer from fatigue because the body is devoting its resources to fighting this infection. If he sees a doctor for lack of energy, he may not find a solution as the oral health problem isn’t known to the doctor.
Recent research has also shown a connection between periodontitis and heart disease. The tie-in is the bacteria that grows on your teeth between brushings. It’s been discovered that clumps of this bacteria are also found in the material clogging the arteries of a person with heart disease. If you minimize oral bacteria, you have less bacteria that can migrate to other parts of your body.
Preventing Gum Disease
If you want to prevent periodontitis, simply maintain a regular schedule of good dental care. Brush your teeth twice daily and floss once a day. See your dentist for cleanings and exams twice a year and follow her instructions to eliminate any problems as soon as they show up. If you handle the small problems, you’re much more likely to avoid the big ones later.
It also helps if you avoid use of tobacco products, as these increase the risk of gum disease. Some illnesses and medical treatments also increase your risk, so always let your dentist know your other medical situations. Cancer treatments, HIV infection, diabetes, high stress and poor diet are conditions that increase your risk of gum disease.
Good dental care is a strong foundation for your overall health. This is like building your home on solid ground instead of unstable sand. Gum disease can be entirely prevented if caught early enough, but is irreversible if allowed to go on too long. That’s why patient education is an essential part of what we do. An educated patient understands how to keep himself and his family healthier.
At StarBrite Dental, we serve patients from all over the Washington, D.C. area. If you’ve never visited us before, we offer a Free Dental Consultation to get acquainted. We’ll answer any questions you have and do a thorough review of your oral health. Schedule your appointment for this consultation by calling (301) 377-2186 .
We’re not just a dental office. We’re a partner in your overall health.
https://www.perio.org/consumer/types-gum-disease.html http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/features/periodontal-disease-heart-health?page=2 http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/oralhealth/Topics/GumDiseases/PeriodontalGumDisease.htm http://www.dentalhealth.ie/dentalhealth/causes/periodontaldisease.html