Periodontal Disease & Your Health
Adults past the age of 35 lose more teeth as the result of periodontal disease than from cavities. Three out of four adults are affected by gum disease at some point in their life. The best way to prevent gum disease and cavities is by brushing and flossing on a daily basis and by receiving regular professional dental examinations and cleanings. Unfortunately, even with the most diligent home oral hygiene routine, some people can still develop some form of periodontal disease. Once this disease starts, professional intervention is necessary to prevent its progression.
Overwhelming research data shows an inter-relationship between gum disease and health conditions. Pre-existing health conditions can cause or exacerbate gum disease and, likewise, gum disease can lead to the development or furthering of health conditions. With this in mind, it is even more imperative that gum disease be treated promptly, or better yet, be prevented so that its far reaching effects do not have an opportunity to affect your health.
Researchers have found that people with gum disease are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery disease. Bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream and attach to fatty plaques in the coronary arteries causing thickening of the arteries. Inflammation caused by periodontal disease increases plaque build-up which may contribute to swelling of the arteries.
Studies have shown tobacco use to be one of the most significant risk factors for the development and progression of periodontal disease. Tobacco users have more severe periodontal disease than non-tobacco users. There is a greater incidence of calculus formation on teeth, deeper pockets between gums and teeth as well as greater loss of bone and fibers that hold teeth in your mouth. In addition, the chance of developing oral cancer increases with the use of smokeless tobacco. Chemicals in tobacco slow down the healing process and decrease the predictability of successful periodontal treatment.
Individuals with diabetes have twice the risk of developing periodontal disease. Uncontrolled diabetics are three times more likely to have severe periodontal disease than those without diabetes. These infections can increase blood sugar resulting in prolonged periods of high blood sugar levels. This puts diabetics at risk for other diabetes-related complications.
Research shows that 30% of the population may be genetically susceptible to gum disease. Those people may be six times more likely to develop periodontal disease, despite their best efforts to practice good oral hygiene and follow through with regular dental visits. They will often recall that many of their relatives had lost teeth at early ages. This is an aggressive form of the gum disease that can be diagnosed with a bacteria test and treated with systemic antibiotics.
Other Systemic Diseases & Poor Nutrition
Diseases that interfere with the body’s immune system and a body that is lacking essential nutrients will be less able to fight gum infections and may lead to a worsening of the condition of the gums.
It is widely known that stress can lead to numerous health problems. Research shows that stress decreases a persons ability to fight off infection, including periodontal disease, an infection of the gums.
Medications are important for the treatment of medical conditions but some have side effects that can affect your periodontal health. Dry mouth is one such common side effect. Saliva helps slough away debris and bacteria. When there is less saliva moving about, bacteria is allowed to collect around gums and teeth and cause gum disease and cavities.
Clenching or Grinding Your Teeth
Clenching and grinding of teeth exerts an undue amount of stress on teeth and its supporting structures that are below the gum line. This can cause gum tissue to be damaged faster than it normally would.
Women & Periodontal Health
Throughout a woman’s lifetime, hormonal changes affect many tissue throughout the body, especially gum tissue. The chance of periodontal disease increases during times of hormonal fluctuations.
During puberty, there is an increased production of hormones. These higher levels increase gum sensitivity and lead to a greater chance of gum irritation from plaque and food particles. The gums can become swollen, turn red and feel tender.
Symptoms of periodontal disease experienced during puberty occasionally recur a few days before menstruation. There can be bleeding of the gums, swelling between the teeth and gums and sores on the inside of the cheek. The symptoms clear up once the cycle starts.
Your gums and teeth are also affected during pregnancy. Between the second and eighth months, your gums may also swell, bleed and become red and tender. Large lumps may appear as a reaction to local irritants. However, these growths are generally painless and not cancerous. They may require professional removal, but usually disappear after pregnancy. Keeping gums healthy should be a part of your prenatal care. Periodontal disease is an infection below the gum line. Research shows that women with periodontal disease may be seven times more likely to deliver a low birth weight or premature baby because of bacteria traveling in the bloodstream. An effective home oral hygiene routine and quarterly cleanings are the best ways to keep gums healthy during pregnancy.
Changes in the look and feel of your mouth may occur if you are menopausal or post-menopausal. There may be the feeling of pain and burning in your gums or salty, peppery or sour tastes. Saliva substitutes are available to treat the effects of dry mouth.
Oral contraceptives are synthetic hormones and thus may lead to bleeding, swelling and tenderness of the gums. It is important for us to know if you are taking these medications to prevent the risk of drug interactions. For instance, antibiotics may decrease the effectiveness of oral contraceptives.