Can Gum Disease affect General Health?
Whether you know it or not, there are more bacteria in your mouth then the number of people on this planet. Some of these bacteria are good, others are just downright awful. In our mouths it is critical to maintain the balance between the good and the bad. Aside from good overall health, the balance is maintained by a few different methods: by regular cleaning with your toothbrush and dental aids, routine examinations with your dentist, and cleanings with a dental hygienist. All of methods will help with prevention of Gum Disease.
Bad bacteria that reside on your teeth and gums can lead to cavities and gum disease if not cleaned regularly and properly. An overgrowth of these bacteria can also cause areas to become inflamed and infected. Just like an infection anywhere else in your body, when you have an infection or inflammation in the oral cavity, the body’s immune system kicks in to fight the disease and help us heal. The only problem is, if the source of inflammation is not removed it can lead to a chronic inflammation in our bodies.
If bacteria are allowed to sit below the gumline for an extended amount of time the inflammation continues to increase. Your body, in efforts to get rid of the inflammation from the bad bacteria produces chemicals which eat away at the bone structure in your jaw. This bone structure is responsible for keeping your teeth in place. If left for even longer amounts of time a person will only continue to lose bone, this will cause a person’s teeth to become mobile and very uncomfortable; this is called ‘periodontitis’. Inflammation then can cause problems to the rest of your body.
Research has shown connections between periodontitis, also known as periodontal disease and diabetes. Studies have proven diabetic control is much more difficult to achieve if a person has unstable periodontal disease. If our body is fighting inflammation in the mouth, it can diminish the ability of our body to control blood sugar. In a diabetic lack of insulin is also a serious problem, because insulin functions by converting sugar consumed into energy. Research has also shown that having high blood sugar gives ideal conditions for infections to thrive. This includes gum infections. The good news is that by controlling your diabetes you can help to control your periodontal disease, and by controlling periodontal disease, you can in turn make diabetes more manageable and stable.
Diabetes isn’t the only health area that the mouth has been connected to. Research has also established that gum disease and heart disease are connected. It is estimated that up to 91% of patients with heart disease have periodontal disease. This is in comparison to the 66% of patients who don’t suffer from heart disease. Periodontal disease and heart disease have several risk factors in common: such as a poor diet, smoking, and obesity. Research has indicated that having inflammation in the oral cavity can cause inflammation in the blood vessels. This increases the risk of a heart attack due to several factors: Inflamed blood vessels allow less blood to travel between the heart and the rest of the body, because the blood goes through a smaller space our blood pressure increases. With an increased blood pressure fatty deposits are more likely to break off from a blood vessel. If this happens this deposit can travel to the heart, or even the brain. The result can be a stroke, heart attack, or even death.
Osteoporosis and periodontitis share a very similar feature. Both result from bone loss. The link between these two diseases is still being heavily studied, and the information linking the two is still highly debated. Major differences between the two are where they result in bone loss and who they primarily affect. Osteoporosis affects the bones in the legs and arms. In contrast, Periodontal Disease impacts the jaw bone and the bone surrounding our teeth. Studies confirm osteoporosis affects females in majority, whereas periodontitis is more common to males. Studies have shown that more often than not women with osteoporosis suffer from periodontitis in comparison to women without the disease. Tests are currently being studied being carried out to see if the inflammation triggered by periodontitis could weaken bone in other parts of the body.
In recent years declining health in America has sparked an interest for research in health. Because research is finding so many links between oral health and systemic health many findings are still very new and not fully understood. Connections between periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other systemic conditions are suggested, but not confirmed. Either way, the oral cavity health impacts our systemic health, and good oral health is critical for having an optimally healthy life.
The oral conditions of periodontitis and cavities, which impact systemic conditions can be avoided, or drastically reduced by adding simple steps to your daily routine. If you notice bleeding in an area of your mouth that never used to bleed this is a sign this area needs more attention when brushing and flossing. The logic seems a little backwards, considering we often think we should avoid these areas, but avoiding the area can actually make the problem worse.
Our offices advise everyone to brush at least twice daily. Also using interdental aids such as floss, handisticks, and other interdental aids to brush away bacteria where your toothbrush cannot reach are also very important for in-between your teeth. Another great method for reducing bacteria in the mouth is to use a mouthrinse such as Listerine. The most common places for cavities to form are in between your teeth and in the grooves of our teeth. Brushing can help keep the grooves clean, but if we are not flossing or using something between the teeth it is more likely to form cavities where the teeth come together. It is also critical to see a dental hygienist at least twice a year to keep your teeth and gums clean and stable. Dental hygienists are trained to clean under your gums with special instruments where daily home techniques cannot reach. We encourage all of our patients to come in at least two times yearly, however every patient is different and sometimes it is necessary to come in even more frequently for cleanings to help keep the oral cavity healthy and stable.
Here at Lincoln Family Dentistry, we offer a great hygiene service with our team of experienced and friendly hygienists. It is their mission to give you a spotless, healthy smile, as well as enjoy your time at our offices. For regular cleaning appointments we offer half-hour appointments or hourly appointments, depending on the severity of your mouth. For any advice about gum disease or questions you may have, please give us a call, or send us an email.