Periodontal care is an important factor in oral and overall health. Periodontal disease, commonly known as gum disease is an inflammatory condition affecting the tissues surrounding a tooth. Did you know that periodontal disease is the # 1 cause of tooth loss among American adults? Periodontal disease is caused by the bacteria in plaque, the sticky colourless film that constantly forms on your teeth. If not removed through daily brushing and flossing, plaque can build up and lead to the infection of your gums and teeth. Eventually if plaque build-up progresses, it will transform into tartar deposits which will affect the gum tissue and bone that support the teeth, leading to tooth loss.
Signs of Periodontal Desease
As plaque continues to build without proper cleaning, gums become infected and the bone tends to recede. Teeth may become sensitive as the root becomes exposed, and pus may be produced and pockets may form between the gum and tooth. These processes are not visible to the naked eye, and if left undetected, may contribute to tooth loss. For this reason it is important to visit your dentist regularly so they can look for the following signs of gum disease:
- Bleeding gums during tooth brushing or otherwise
- Sensitive, red or swollen gums
- Bad breath (Halitosis)
- Teeth that are loose or appear to have shifted
Treatment of Periodontal Desease
Even when periodontal disease is in a fairly advanced stage, it is possible to improve or even reverse the condition utilizing minimally invasive and cost-effective methods. Dr. Preis often accomplishes this through non-surgical procedures, such as scaling and root planing. Root planing is a thorough cleaning of root surfaces to eliminate plaque and calculus (tartar) from deep periodontal pockets, and smoothing the root to rid it of bacterial toxins. Oftentimes scaling and root planing is followed by supportive therapy, such as local delivery of antimicrobials and host modulation, as required on a case-by-case basis. Most clinicians would acknowledge that following scaling and root planing, most persons do not need further treatment, which includes surgical therapy. However, many patients will need continual therapy to maintain proper health. There are limitations to non-surgical therapy. If non-surgical treatment does not improve oral health, Dr. Preis can refer you to a periodontal specialist who may be able to restore your oral health through surgery.
Gum Disease Links to Heart Disease and Stroke
There are several theories* that exist that attempt to explain the link between periodontal disease and heart disease. One theory suggests that oral bacteria can affect the heart when they enter the blood stream, attaching to fatty plaques in the arteries and contributing to clot formation. Coronary artery disease is caused by the thickening of the walls of the coronary arteries due to the buildup of fatty acids. Blood clots obstruct the normal flow of blood and lead to neglecting the heart of necessary amounts of nutrients and oxygen required to function properly. This can eventually lead to heart attacks.
Another theory is that the inflammation caused by periodontal disease increases plaque buildup, which may be a contributor to swelling of the arteries. Research shows that people with periodontal disease are almost two times as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as those without the condition.
*Recently the American Heart Association (AHA) released a statement that although there is no evidence for a direct cause-effect relationship between gum disease and heart disease there is a strong association between these conditions. This means that if you have poor gums you are likely to have a higher risk of heart trouble.
There are other studies that link a relationship between gum disease and stroke. Research has found that a look at the casual relationship between oral disease as a risk factor for stroke shows that people with periodontal disease were more likely to be victims of stroke.
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be seven times more likely to have a baby that is born prematurely and too small. Research suggests that periodontal disease increases levels of biological fluids that induce labour. Additionally, women whose periodontal condition worsens during pregnancy have an even higher risk of having a premature baby. Doctor’s recommend that women considering pregnancy have a periodontal evaluation as a precaution because of the link periodontal disease may pose to the health of a baby.