Posts for tag: periodontal disease
Your body’s organ systems are interlinked — what happens in one system may affect another. An example of this is the interrelationship between periodontal (gum) disease and cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Medicine has discovered a common link between these two different conditions — inflammation. A result of the body’s defense mechanisms, chronic inflammation is damaging to both your mouth and your heart. Inflammation can destroy the gum’s soft tissue and underlying bone and lead to tooth loss. In the cardiovascular system, inflammation can begin and accelerate the buildup of plaque within arterial blood vessels (atherosclerosis). This inhibits the flow of oxygenated blood to both the heart and brain, which sets the stage for a heart attack or stroke.
Gum disease begins with poor oral hygiene. When brushing and flossing aren’t performed on a regular basis, or not performed adequately, it allows a thin layer of bacterial plaque called biofilm to build up on the teeth. The bacteria cause infection in the soft tissues of the gum that triggers the chronic inflammation. Because it’s often unaccompanied by other signs of infection like fever, a patient may not even be aware of it. There’s evidence now that inflammation caused by moderate to severe gum disease can contribute to a similar response in blood vessels.
We can treat the gum disease and reduce or eliminate the inflammation. This first requires the removal of all plaque and calculus (harder deposits) on the teeth, down to the root level. It may require surgery to access these areas and to help regenerate some of the lost tissue and bone that support the teeth. It’s also important to institute proper oral hygiene — effective daily brushing and flossing, semi-annual office cleanings and checkups.
In a similar way, you should address signs of inflammation in your cardiovascular system, including blood pressure management and the control of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Because both gum disease and CVD share many of the same risk factors, you can positively impact both your oral and general health by eating more nutritional foods, engaging in regular exercise and quitting tobacco products.
Treating any symptom of inflammation is important to improving your total health. By bringing gum disease and its accompanying inflammation under control, you may in turn help your heart and blood vessels.
If you would like more information on the relationship between heart and gum diseases, 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 “The Link Between Heart & Gum Diseases.”
Because its symptoms can be easy to overlook, gum disease is sometimes called a “silent” malady. But don't underestimate this problem! Untreated periodontal disease can progress into a serious condition, possibly leading to tooth loss and even systemic (whole-body) health issues. With proper preventive measures and appropriate treatment, however, the disease can be controlled.
The root cause of periodontal disease — actually, a group of related diseases, all of which affect the tissues surrounding the teeth — is the buildup of bacterial plaque (also referred to as biofilm) around the gums. While hundreds of types of bacteria live in the mouth, only a comparatively few are thought to be harmful. But when oral hygiene (namely, brushing and flossing) is inadequate, the environment in the mouth becomes favorable to those harmful types.
The disease often begins with inflammation of the gums called gingivitis. It symptoms include bad breath, bleeding gums, and soreness, redness, or tenderness of the gum tissue. However, in some people these early warning signs are ignored, or masked by the effects of harmful habits like smoking.
Gum disease is chronic; that means, if left alone, it will worsen over time. Periodontitis, as it progresses, causes damage to the ligament that helps hold the tooth in place, as well as bone loss. This may become increasingly severe, and ultimately result in the loss of the tooth. Severe periodontitis is also associated with whole-body (systemic) inflammation, which has been linked to an increased incidence of cardiovascular diseases, like stroke and heart attack.
But there's no reason to allow gum disease to progress to this stage! Prevention — that is, regular daily brushing and flossing as well as regular dental cleanings — is a primary means of keeping this problem at bay. Plus, every time you have a regular dental checkup, your gums are examined for early signs of trouble. Of course, if you notice the symptoms of gum disease, you should come in for a check-up as soon as you can.
There are a number of effective treatments for gum disease. One of the most conservative, routine ways are those regular dental cleanings we referred to earlier, usually called scaling and root planning. Using hand-held and ultrasonic instruments, the buildup of plaque (tartar) is carefully removed, sometimes under local anesthesia. A follow-up evaluation may show that this treatment, carried out on a regular schedule, is all that's needed. Or, it may be time for a more comprehensive therapy.
If you have concerns about gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Understanding Gum (Periodontal) Disease” and “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”
While hygiene and regular dental care go a long way to reduce your risk of oral disease and disorders, you’re still subject to your heredity. Everything from tooth alignment to the shape of your jaws is determined by your genes.
So is the biological structure of your gum tissue. Aside from minute variations, gum tissue structure falls into two broad categories — “thin” or “thick,” which refer to the actual thickness of the tissue and the underlying bone. The tooth’s appearance is the best indicator of which type you may have: those with more triangular-shaped tooth (often called scalloped) have thin gum tissue; a person with a squarer appearance (flat) has thick gum tissue. People of Asian descent tend to have thin/scalloped tissue while those with European or African heritage tend to have thick/flat tissues.
Thick gum tissue isn’t superior to thin, or vice-versa. In fact, each type is susceptible to certain types of diseases or adverse conditions.
Thin tissues are more susceptible to the occurrence of receding gums. Caused mainly by periodontal disease and toothbrush abrasion, the gum tissue recedes and exposes more of the unprotected tooth surface that should be below the gum line. This increases the risk of decay and tooth loss. Patients with thick tissue, on the other hand, have a higher risk of developing a condition known as “pocketing.” As the thicker gum tissue becomes inflamed from dental plaque, it loses its attachment to the teeth and forms a small pocket. The end result is possible bone and tooth loss.
There’s not much you can do about which type of gum tissue you have, for which you can thank (or blame!) your ancestors. But there’s something you can do to reduce your risk of periodontal disease. First and foremost, you should practice good daily hygiene, brushing with a soft-bristled tooth brush and gentle flossing. It’s also important to maintain regular cleanings and checkups in our office; not only will this ensure complete plaque and tartar removal, but gives us a better chance to detect either receding gums or pocketing early. Earlier detection can mean better treatment outcomes — and a saved smile.
If you would like more information on genetic types of periodontal tissues, 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 “Genetics & Gum Tissue Types.”