Posts for tag: gum disease
February is all about hearts—and not just on Valentine's Day. It's also American Heart Month, when healthcare professionals focus attention on this life-essential organ. Dentists are among those providers, and for good reason—dental health is deeply intertwined with heart health.
The thread that often binds them together is inflammation, a key factor in both periodontal (gum) and cardiovascular diseases. In and of itself, inflammation is a vital part of the body's ability to heal. Diseased or injured tissues become inflamed to isolate them from healthier tissues. But too much inflammation for too long can be destructive rather than therapeutic.
This is especially true with gum disease, an infection triggered by bacteria in dental plaque, a thin film that forms on the surface of teeth. If it's not substantially removed through daily brushing and flossing, along with regular dental cleanings, bacteria can grow and increase the risk of gum disease.
The infected gum tissues soon become inflamed as the body responds. This defensive response, however, can quickly evolve into a stalemate as the infection advances and the inflammation becomes chronic.
Arteries associated with the heart can also develop their own form of plaque, which accumulates on the inner walls. The body likewise responds with inflammation, which further hardens and narrows these vessels, leading to restricted blood flow and an increased risk for heart attack or stroke.
While it may seem like these are two different disease mechanisms, the same inflammatory response occurs in both. In fact, recent research seems to indicate that inflammation occurring via gum disease increases the likelihood of inflammation within the cardiovascular system. So, the presence of gum disease could worsen a heart-related condition—and vice-versa.
But the research also contains a silver lining. Controlling inflammation related to your gums could help control it elsewhere in the body, including with the heart. And, you can achieve that control by avoiding or reducing gum disease, which in turn can ease inflammation in your gums.
To sum it up, then, taking care of your teeth by brushing and flossing daily and seeing your dentist regularly to prevent gum disease could benefit your heart health. And, effectively managing chronic heart disease could also help you avoid an infection involving your gums.
You should also be alert to any signs your gums may be infected, including swollen, reddened or sensitive gums that seem to bleed easily. If you notice anything like this, see your dentist ASAP—the sooner you receive treatment, the easier it will be to get the infection—and inflammation—under control. Your gums—and perhaps your heart—will thank you.
If you would like more information about the links between dental disease and the rest of your health, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Link Between Heart & Gum Diseases.”
If you're over thirty, you have a fifty-fifty chance of contracting gum disease and your odds worsen as you get older. But your fate isn't sealed, especially if you know what to do to prevent this harmful disease.
But before we discuss your prevention strategy, let's look first at oral bacteria, the basic cause for gum disease. Although most bacterial strains in your mouth are benign or even beneficial, a few can infect your gums. And, the more of them there are in your mouth, the higher your risk for infection.
These bacteria multiply with the help of a sticky biofilm called dental plaque, providing them a ready source of food and shelter. Plaque and its hardened form tartar accumulate daily on dental surfaces, particularly if you don't practice daily brushing and flossing.
Once a gum infection begins, the body unleashes an inflammatory response to isolate the infected tissues from healthy ones. As a result, the gums can become swollen and reddened, and may easily bleed. If you see signs like these, you should seek treatment as soon as possible to stop the infection's advance.
And, advance it will, spreading ever deeper into the gums until it threatens the supporting bone. At this point, with the gums becoming detached from the teeth and the bone compromised, the affected teeth could be in imminent danger of loss.
These basic disease processes underscore the importance of one thing—the daily removal of bacterial plaque through brushing and flossing. The bacteria that cause disease don't thrive well in an environment devoid of plaque.
But even if you're diligent about your hygiene, you may still miss some plaque; this can then calcify into tartar, which is likely impossible to remove with brushing and flossing. That's why you need dental cleanings at least every six months to remove stubborn tartar and any lingering plaque.
Regular dental visits also increase your chances of early gum disease detection. The earlier we're able to diagnose and start treating an infection, the better the outcome.
Gum disease can begin and advance quickly, sometimes without you noticing. But daily brushing and flossing, regular dental cleanings and prompt attention at the first sign of trouble can help you stay ahead of this harmful disease.
If you would like more information on preventing gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Gum Disease Gets Started.”
Hannah Bronfman, well-known DJ and founder of the health and beauty website HBFIT.com, took a tumble while biking a few years ago. After the initial pain and bruising subsided, all seemed well—until she started experiencing headaches, fatigue and unexplained weight gain. Her doctors finally located the source—a serious infection emanating from a tooth injured during the accident.
It's easy to think of the human body as a loose confederation of organs and tissues that by and large keep their problems to themselves. But we'd do better to consider the body as an organic whole—and that a seemingly isolated condition may actually disrupt other aspects of our health.
That can be the case with oral infections triggered by tooth decay or gum disease, or from trauma as in Bronfman's case. These infections, which can inflict severe damage on teeth and gums, may also contribute to health issues beyond the mouth. They can even worsen serious, life-threatening conditions like heart disease.
The bacteria that cause both tooth decay and gum disease could be the mechanism for these extended problems. It's possible for bacteria active during an oral infection to migrate to other parts of the body through the bloodstream. If that happens, they can spread infection elsewhere, as it appears happened with Bronfman.
But perhaps the more common way for a dental disease to impact general health is through chronic inflammation. Initially, this defensive response by the body is a good thing—it serves to isolate diseased or injured tissues from healthier tissues. But if it becomes chronic, inflammation can cause its own share of damage.
The inflammation associated with gum disease can lead to weakened gum tissues that lose their attachment to teeth. But clinical research over the last few years also points to another possibility—that periodontal inflammation could worsen the inflammation associated with diseases like heart disease, diabetes or arthritis.
Because of this potential harm not only to your teeth and gums but also to the rest of your body, you shouldn't take an oral injury or infection lightly. If you've had an accident involving your mouth, see your dentist as soon as possible for a complete examination. You should also make an appointment if you notice signs of infection like swollen or bleeding gums.
Prompt dental treatment can help you minimize potential damage to your teeth and gums. It could also protect the rest of your health.
If you would like more information about the effects of dental problems on the rest of the body, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Link Between Heart and Gum Diseases.”
Periodontal (gum) disease may begin superficially, but it can eventually work its way deeper below the gums to become a threat to the teeth and the underlying bone. The tooth roots are especially vulnerable to the disease with long-lasting implications to the tooth's survival.
An infection usually begins with dental plaque, a thin biofilm on tooth surfaces that harbor the bacteria that cause gum disease. The infection may eventually reach an area around the tooth roots called a furcation, where the roots branch off from the main tooth body. If the disease gains a foothold in a furcation, it could seriously erode the infected bone structure.
This often occurs in stages, commonly classified as early, moderate or advanced ("through and through"). In the first stage, the infected area exposes a slight groove in the tooth, but no significant structural loss. The next stage shows bone loss of at least two millimeters. In the most advanced stage, the bone loss now extends all the way beneath the tooth from one side to the other.
As with any situation caused by gum disease, it's best to catch a furcation involvement early and initiate treatment. As with any case of gum disease, the objective is to remove accumulated plaque and tartar (hardened plaque), which both fuel the infection. With plaque removed, the periodontal tissues can begin to heal and possibly regenerate.
It can be hard to achieve these outcomes because furcations are difficult to access. Although we may be able to clean the roots with tools like scalers (curettes) or ultrasonic equipment, we might still need to surgically access the area to completely remove the infection.
Initial treatment of furcations is often only the beginning. Someone with this level of gum disease usually needs continuous, heightened dental care and maintenance to prevent reinfection, often by an experienced hygienist working in consultation with a periodontist (gum specialist). It's also common to surgically alter the tissues around a furcation to make them easier to inspect and clean.
The best scenario, of course, is to avoid an infection altogether, or at least diagnose it before it becomes this advanced. The best way to stay gum (and tooth) healthy is to be sure you brush and floss every day, and see your dentist for cleanings and checkups at least twice a year.
If you would like more information on treating furcations, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “What are Furcations?”
Half of adults over age 30, and an astounding 70% over 65, have had some form of periodontal (gum) disease. Unchecked, a bacterial gum infection can spread into the supporting bone and destroy attachments between the teeth and gums. Because of its rapidity and aggressiveness, gum disease is the number one cause of tooth loss among adults.
But there may be even more harm caused by gum disease beyond losing teeth: There's growing evidence gum disease may worsen other diseases like diabetes, heart disease or rheumatoid arthritis. Patients with gum disease are also more likely to suffer from one or more of these systemic conditions.
The link between gum disease and these other diseases appears to be inflammation. When tissue becomes injured or diseased, swelling (inflammation) occurs to isolate these tissues from the rest of the body. Under normal circumstances, this is a critical defense mechanism to protect the body overall.
But this response is a temporary measure—if it becomes chronic, it can actually damage the tissues it's trying to protect. This often happens with gum disease as inflammation can't overcome the gum infection, and both sides settle into a kind of trench warfare. The same story plays out with other diseases with an inflammatory response. And if the body is waging war with a gum infection, it can worsen these other conditions.
It's important then to take care of your gums and the rest of the body to minimize chronic inflammation. You can help prevent a gum infection by brushing and flossing every day and getting your teeth cleaned professionally at least every six months. You should also see your dentist if you notice swollen, reddened or bleeding gums, often the first signs of gum disease.
It can also benefit your gums if you're addressing other inflammatory issues in your body. Besides regular medical care, you can reduce your risk for other systemic diseases by eating a healthy diet, keeping your weight at an optimum level and avoiding smoking.
The individual parts of your body aren't isolated islands: Diseases that affect one can eventually affect all. By preventing or treating gum disease as early as possible, you'll also help reduce the effects of other systemic diseases.