Oral Systemic Link
Gum disease can harm more than just your mouth
Gum disease can harm more than just your mouth. But what many people don’t realize is that gum disease has also been linked to a number of conditions beyond the mouth. These include heart disease, diabetes and premature birth.
Even though it is often painless, gum disease (periodontal disease) is the main reason for tooth loss in adults. The real culprit is plaque. Plaque is the sticky, bacteria-laden film that collects on your teeth. Without proper removal on a daily basis, this film layer builds up allowing the bacteria to grow and thrive creating a chronic infection. The body responds to the unwanted bacteria by producing an inflammatory reaction to fight off the bacteria. Evidence of this inflammation is when gums bleed. If this is allowed to continue the infection worsens and bone loss around the teeth occurs.
Gum disease can cause discomfort and a host of other unpleasant symptoms, including:
- Swollen, red or tender gums
- Gums that bleed easily
- Pus between the teeth and gums
- Bad breath
- Buildup of hard brown/black deposits under the gum and along the gum line
- Loose teeth, or teeth that are moving apart
- Changes in the way dental appliances fit.
The good news is, if diagnosed early enough, gum disease is treatable and the progression of the disease can be halted.
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New insights into the dental health – heart health link
The teeth and gums are not an isolated compartment but rather an integral part of a bigger system The same blood that flows through the gums and teeth also flows through your heart, brain, lungs, etc.
For many years we have known about the connection between the health of the mouth and our overall health. We have known since 1997, for instance, that the underlying cause of heart disease is chronic inflammation. This knowledge has changed the way modern dental practices operate and the way we look at chronic dental problems such as periodontal disease (gum disease).
A report in the March 19, 2013 issue of CIRCULATION, an American Heart Association Journal, states: “Dental Infection and oral bacteria, especially viridans streptococci, many be associated with the development of acute coronary thrombosis. The same article also states, “Poor dental health has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Chronic periodontal infection especially has been associated with the risk of acute myocardial infarction (MI) and coronary heart disease. In addition, the researcher found that periodontal disease was a significant independent risk factor for peripheral vascular disease.”
Flossing for Health
Recently, an article was publicized in many media outlets that questioned the value of dental flossing. This may have sent an irresponsible message that proper oral hygiene, including plaque removal by flossing, is not necessary. This is inaccurate and does a disservice to the health of the general public.
Proper flossing technique, which includes flossing the entire tooth and below the gum line, will remove bacterial plaque. This daily removal of plaque is the standard for creating health in our patients. I believe taking responsibility for one’s health is critical, especially at a time when healthcare is in such a state of flux. It has been stated that it is easier to “stay well than to get well”. By creating the habit of proper daily dental hygiene, including proper flossing, you can create health and indeed save your life!