Periodontal or gum disease is an infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. It is a leading cause of tooth loss in American adults. Gum disease is caused by plaque, which is the sticky film of bacteria that is brushed and flossed away with regular, proper oral care. However, when plaque is left on the teeth, plaque then produces toxins that attack below the gum line in the sulcus, a shallow v-shaped crevice between the tooth and gums. This causes the bond between teeth and gums to break down. In the early stage of gum disease (gingivitis), gums may become red and swollen and bleed easily. In the more advanced stage (periodontal disease), teeth can loosen and fall out. Because damage can occur below the gum line, if no symptoms are evident, it can be a condition that is not addressed until it is too late. Good oral hygiene and regular dental examinations are essential in the prevention and early detection of gum disease especially since you can have it without experiencing any warning signs.
Gum disease has also been linked to many health problems. It is proven science that our teeth can affect our heart health, and poor gum health can lead to a heart attack event. What can happen is the bacteria on our teeth that are the contributing factor to gum disease, can enter the bloodstream very easily and attach to any existing fatty deposits in the arteries. This causes the artery to become clogged at a more accelerated rate than that of someone who may be experiencing dental health in better condition. When the arteries become clogged, this can lead to a heart attack.
Due to the link between gum and heart disease, more studies are being done to address the link between gum disease and strokes. Much like the process that can occur with gum disease and heart attacks, if a great amount of bacteria enters the bloodstream consistently over time, this can lead to a blocked blood vessel resulting in a stroke.
Patients with diabetes may also find that keeping their their blood sugar levels balanced may be more difficult is the individual is suffering from gum disease. One affects the other in case, such as if a patient is struggling to take measures to control their diabetes, and sugar in the body is elevated, the bacteria on gums thrives on the elevated sugar in the body.
Good measures to take aside from regularly scheduled visits to your dental office and regimented dental health actions taken daily, are elements such a diet, exercise, and limiting the use of tobacco products and alcoholic beverages. The right nutrition helps the body to fight off infection, and curbing tobacco and alcohol products helps to to reduce the chance of bacteria experiencing the perfect environment to flourish.
Signs that you may have gum disease include:
- Gums that are red, swollen, tender, bleed easily or pull away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath or bad taste
- Loose or separating teeth
- A change in the way your teeth fit together
- A change in the fit of partial dentures