What is Periodontal Disease?
The Mouth-Body Connection
Periodontal disease is, quite simply, gum disease. An ongoing infection in your gums will continue to destroy gum tissues, moving on to your teeth and even your jawbone. On a systemic level, it can become more serious. Bacteria from this type of infection can enter the bloodstream, causing chronic problems throughout the body.
The more we learn, the more obvious it becomes that the mouth-body connection is powerful and worth attention.
Let’s look at some of the ways that maintaining your oral health can help keep you healthier all over.
Periodontal Disease and Diabetes
Diabetics have been shown to have a greater susceptibility to periodontal disease, and should especially stay vigilant about their oral hygiene. There are a number of reasons that diabetes can contribute to periodontal disease, with some connections more direct than others.
As diabetes slows blood circulation, it makes sufferers prone to all types of infections and bacteria is more likely to spread and take hold. Blood vessels are also affected in some cases, thickening and losing their ability to remove waste, such as bacteria. As a result, infections grow.
As diabetics work to control their blood sugar levels, periodontal infections can elevate it, making glucose management more difficult. At the same time, higher blood glucose levels create saliva with increased glucose – creating a vicious cycle of bacterial growth.
Periodontal Disease, Heart Disease, and Stroke
The connection between periodontal disease and heart disease is well-known. Patients with periodontal disease are twice as likely to have coronary artery disease, and the links between oral infections and life-threatening clots and strokes are increasingly clear-cut.
As plaque builds in artery walls, it restricts blood flow. In addition to the usual symptoms of coronary diseases, such as shortness of breath, it also creates a place for any oral bacteria that has entered the bloodstream to cling to. These create clots that can break loose and cause strokes, heart attacks, and other issues related to impaired blood flow.
In addition, the bacteria that enter the bloodstream from periodontal infections can activate the body’s response to their presence. As it increases C-Reactive Protein and white blood cells to fight the infection, it can also inflame arteries and reduce blood flow – once again, creating a heart attack.
Preventing heart disease and stroke requires some healthy lifestyle practices – make sure that maintaining your oral health is one of them.
Periodontal Disease and Pregnancy
The rising estrogen levels that occur after the first month of a woman’s pregnancy also can create sore, inflamed gums and increased sensitivity to plaque and other irritants in the mouth. Pregnancy gingivitis is an unwelcome problem for expectant mothers and can put both mother and child at risk.
Research has also shown a link between advanced periodontal disease and premature deliveries/ low birth weights. It’s possible that the infection increases the mother’s production of prostaglandin – which can induce labor early.
If you’re worried about gum irritation and other problems during your pregnancy, check-in with your dentist or Dr. Malek. Additional cleanings in the second and third trimester may be recommended.
Periodontal Disease and Respiratory Disease
The short distance between the oral cavity and the lungs can wreak havoc with susceptible individuals. Bacteria from a periodontal infection can enter the respiratory system as droplets, increasing the risk for pneumonia, or worsening existing conditions.
As chronic sufferers of respiratory syndromes tend to have impaired immune systems, the chance for infection is also increased. When periodontal or respiratory disease is diagnosed, a follow-up visit with either a periodontist or a physician is advised so that treatment for both conditions can be coordinated.
Periodontal Disease and Osteoporosis
The gradual loss of bone density affects the whole body, including the jawbones. There’s a significant link between measured bone loss and periodontal disease, especially in women. Lower estrogen levels can create dry mouths and tissue changes that have a negative impact on oral health.
To help keep tooth loss and other issues at bay, maintaining good oral hygiene, addressing bone density loss with a physician, and taking steps to prevent a chronically dry mouth are all important and should be added to your health maintenance routines.
Periodontal Disease and Tobacco
Tobacco use and oral cancer prevalence have already been established – but here’s yet another reason to give it up: Advanced periodontal disease. It doesn’t just lead to bad breath and stained teeth – it also creates more plaque, calculus, and deterioration of your gums and bones.
When you add tooth loss to cancer risk, slow recovery from oral surgery procedures, and the other negative health effects of any type of tobacco use, the best course of action is to stop. Once you have, periodontal procedures can help arrest and treat the damage that has been done.
Preventing Gum Disease
For adults over 35, cavities aren’t the biggest cause of tooth loss. As we get older, habits such as clenching our teeth, tobacco use, poor nutrition, and even not dealing with stress can all take a toll – and periodontal disease sets in. Unfortunately, even the most dedicated flossers and brushers still need help with fending off periodontal disease.
Staying on schedule with professional cleanings and check-ups will help spot any issues with early periodontal disease. In addition to maintaining good habits with oral hygiene, there are other changes that will help you prevent gum disease. By stopping tobacco use, paying attention to behaviors such as tooth grinding, and checking in with your periodontist, you can help prevent problems.
When should you see a periodontist for periodontal treatment
Your regular dentist may refer you to a periodontist for a consultation if they spot early signs of periodontal disease. Our office is open to referrals and coordinates care with your dentist in these cases.
However, you may also notice symptoms on your own that indicate that a visit to our office is in order. Malek Periodontics does not require a referral to make an appointment! Please make an appointment as soon as possible if you notice any of these issues.
New Bleeding during regular activities
If you experience bleeding when you’re eating normal foods, or while maintaining your regular oral hygiene routine of brushing and flossing, it can be the sign of infection.
If you’ve noticed that your bad breath is persistent, and not getting better with cleaning, it could indicate that gum infection is present.
Loose or longer-looking teeth
As gums recede due to infection, they can cause your teeth to look longer and your gums to look shorter. In addition, bone loss from more severe infections can cause your teeth to become loose in their sockets.
Related health concerns
Oral health and issues with heart or respiratory disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis or osteopenia are often interrelated. Dr. Malek will help coordinate care with your physician and help minimize the risks from periodontal infections.
How Can Dr. Malek Help?
Contact Malek Periodontics today to schedule an appointment and be on your way to a healthy smile, healthy life.