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Address Gum Disease or Risk Developing Related Health Conditions

Editorial Staff

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Gum disease provokes an inflammatory response in the body that can lead to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other illnesses. Here’s how to avoid that. It is also advised that you should visit some good dental clinics like Kanaka Creek Family Dental to avoid any serious conditions.

A generation ago dentists and periodontists observed patients with gum disease not only risked losing their teeth but were also more prone to have or develop chronic health conditions. In recent years medical science has shown that oral health and general health indeed are related. Of particular concern is the strong correlation between heart disease and diabetes with gum disease.

While the specific links between oral and general health continue to be probed, the inflammatory response in the body caused by gum disease leads to an increased number of heart attacks and strokes. Research has shown that those with gum disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as those without gum disease, according to the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP).

Periodontal disease also has been linked to an increased risk for a weakened immune system, bacterial endocarditis, lung infections, and low-birth-weight babies. Practicing good oral hygiene is one of the most important things each of us can for our health. Brushing, flossing, and getting your teeth cleaned at a dentist’s office on a regular basis, as well as addressing gum disease if it occurs, are of critical importance.

Some People Have a Higher Risk for Developing Gum Disease

A percentage of those who follow good oral hygiene still may develop gum disease at some point, especially if they have certain risk factors. Risk factors include a genetic predisposition to gum disease, smoking, stress, taking medications that reduce the amount of saliva in the mouth, and certain health conditions including diabetes, cancer, and AIDS. Genetic studies have shown that about 30% of the population has a genetic predisposition to gum disease.

Diabetics not only have a higher risk for developing gum disease, if they do develop it, have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels when their gum disease isn’t treated. About one-third of diabetics have severe periodontal disease, according to the NIH. Diabetes tends to make gum disease worse and gum disease tends to make diabetes worse.

Because gum disease tends to become more severe over time, older adults are more often diagnosed with it, especially in its most advanced manifestation, periodontitis. Factors that predispose seniors to gum disease include a weakened immune system and the use of certain medications. Reduced manual dexterity makes thoroughly brushing teeth more difficult.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates nearly 11% of seniors 65 and older have moderate to severe periodontal disease. The incidence of the disease among black and Hispanic seniors is at least double that.

Gingivitis Can Lead to Periodontitis

Gingivitis, inflammation of the gums, is the mildest form of gum disease and is often is accompanied by red, tender, swollen gums that may bleed. If not addressed, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, in which pockets of infection accumulate next to the teeth, eventually causing tooth loss.

In addition to sensitive, red and bleeding gums, other periodontal disease symptoms may include bad breath, sores in the mouth, and receding gums. It’s a silent disease. A person may notice their gums bleeding but instead of checking with a dentist, which is what they should do, they just ignore it. They may not become concerned until they notice a loose tooth. By then a lot of damage has been done.

Daily dental hygiene is necessary because plaque, a sticky combination of bacteria, mucus, and particles, constantly accumulates on our teeth. Plaque that isn’t removed by brushing and flossing hardens and develops into tartar deposits. Electric toothbrushes make brushing easier and more effective, especially for seniors.

The longer bacteria-laden plaque and tartar remain on the teeth, the greater the likelihood that gingivitis will develop. Over time gingivitis can give rise to periodontitis, in which gum pulls away from the teeth creating pockets of infection around the teeth. Then toxins from the bacteria and the body’s immune system response then start to break down the bone and connective tissue around the teeth eventually leading to loose teeth and tooth loss.

A dentist or periodontist can use a probe to determine the size of infected pockets around the tooth and may X-ray the mouth to determine the bone loss. While dentists can manage gingivitis and the early stages of periodontitis, more advanced cases of gum disease are typically referred to a periodontist.

Gingivitis usually can be reversed through dental office cleanings and improved home care. But once periodontitis develops treatment becomes more challenging, at best requiring deep cleaning techniques. During deep cleaning, which may be performed at a dentist or periodontist’s office, the gums are numbed so that tartar can be scraped from above and below the gum line. Rough spots on the tooth root are also removed. Medications may be applied under the gum or oral medications prescribed.

Periodontitis Can Lead to Tooth Loss

If periodontitis isn’t addressed or continues to progress, surgery may be required if patients want to avoid tooth loss or additional tooth loss. During periodontal surgery, a section of gum flap is cut and lifted away from the tooth so tartar can be removed and the size of the dental pocket reduced. Sutures are used to reattach the flap. Multiple visits are required and patients can suffer pain as their gums heal.

Some periodontists currently use a laser vs. a scalpel and sutures to address many cases of advanced periodontal disease. One such laser protocol, LANAP, (laser-assisted new attachment procedure) is used by about 13% of active US members of the AAP, according to Millennium Dental Technologies. Millenium manufactures the PerioLase® MVP-7™ laser used in the LANAP procedure.

Whether surgery or LANAP is chosen, it’s important to address severe periodontal disease both to avoid tooth loss and reduce the risk for coronary disease and other chronic conditions.

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