According to a Harvard medical study, gum disease, or periodontitis–a common, but preventable disease that destroys the gums and teeth–is linked to damaged blood vessels, and the heart as well. The same study also found that periodontitis has also been linked to pregnant women giving birth prematurely, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and a host of other medical problems, such as pneumonia.
One reason for this is the sticky bacteria that cling to the teeth and gums, causing inflammation that can easily spread to other nearby structures, including the arteries that supply blood to the head and brain. One Swedish study revealed that patients with gum disease are significantly more likely to suffer a heart attack than those without. It also showed a strong correlation between gum disease and diabetic blood sugar levels.
Besides the related health risks discussed above, periodontitis causes a progressive loss of bone and the soft tissues that surround them. Some forms, including that of Necrotizing periodontal disease, can cause significant bone loss in the jaw and face. If all of that sounds bleak, there is still some good news. Periodontitis is preventable and treatable, however the more proactive one can be, the better.
Periodontitis begins with lesser forms of infection and gum irritation, known as gingivitis. Gingivitis is easy to overlook, as it is not always painful. It may begin with some gum soreness, redness or even minor bleeding when brushing or flossing.
Signs and Symptoms of Periodontitis:
- Irritated, swollen, reddened or purple gums
- Gums may become tender to the touch
- Gums recede (pull away) from the tooth (teeth may appear longer because of receding gums)
- Pus oozing out from between teeth and gums
- Persistent bad breath odor
- A bad taste in your mouth that won’t go away
- Teeth may become loose
What to do if Your Suspect Gum Disease
If you have noticed any of the above symptoms, contact your dentist promptly. Gum disease, especially when caught early, can be treated. Many patients can be treated with non-invasive therapies such as antibiotic mouth rinses. These can be combined with scaling to remove tarter and bacteria from under the gum line or root planing, which smooths out the root surface, making it harder for bacteria to get a firm hold. Remember that the best treatment for gum disease is to prevent it in the first place. Regular flossing, brushing and good dental hygiene can save your teeth, gums and maybe even your life.
To find out more about periodontitis or any other dental health topic, please call (724) 452-4300 or schedule an appointment online today. Come and experience exceptional dentistry with a caring professional. Dr. Mark A. Marion has been selected as one of America’s Best Dentists by the International Association of Dentists, and has been awarded numerous accolades by his patients and peers.