Many people are aware of gum disease and the negative impact it can have on oral health, but the consequences of unhealthy gums can extend far beyond the mouth. Gum health is not only critical for maintaining a healthy bite and smile, but it’s also crucial for your overall health and well-being.
Periodontitis has actually been linked to numerous diseases including stroke, diabetes, heart disease, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and even cognitive disorders. Researchers at the University of North Carolina discovered strong evidence that gum disease could elevate the risk of a second heart attack in patients with a history of heart disease.
While scientists are still trying to understand the connection, there have been many studies over the last few decades that show a clear synergy between good oral health and overall longevity and well-being. Here are three ways prioritizing gum health benefits your overall health:
1. Gum Care Prevents and Reduces Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is a major contributor to a wide range of health problems. It’s also one of the main symptoms of periodontitis. While the inflammation can be observed in the gums, the immune response that causes inflammation can be felt all over the body. When you’re suffering from gum disease, your immune system distributes bacteria-fighting cells that lead to inflammation. When your body is constantly attempting to fight a disease, your internal inflammatory response can lead to chronic fatigue, high blood pressure, headaches, sinus issues, body aches, reduced sleep, and a number of other side effects. Reducing and preventing inflammation is critical for day-to-day well-being, which is one of many reasons maintaining healthy gums is so important. Otherwise, chronic inflammation can lead to a variety of diseases.
2. Gum Care May Help Prevent Cognitive Disorders
There is still a lot to learn about the connection between gum health and the brain; however, there have been a number of studies that link gum disease with cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In many of these cases, older adults with gum disease were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. One theory is that the bacteria and inflammatory molecules that are present in the gums can enter the bloodstream and travel to the brain. Over time, this can lead to the deterioration of critical brain functions. Consequently, long bouts of gum disease could potentially lead to dementia or even other cognitive issues down the road. While causality hasn’t been established in these studies, there is evidence to show an association.
3. Gum Care Could Help Prevent Heart Conditions
Many health professionals believe gum disease is an independent risk factor for heart disease. Over the last several decades, studies have suggested patients with gum disease have a two to three times higher risk of cardiovascular issues including heart attack and stroke. Much like the theory involving gum disease and the brain, some scientists believe bacteria and inflammatory cells from the gums can enter the bloodstream and negatively impact the heart as well. Chronic inflammation can also lead to a number of cardiovascular issues over time.
How To Treat Gum Disease
Because gum health is so closely connected with your overall health, it’s so important to treat gum disease as soon as possible. The longer cases linger, the more damage the disease can have to your overall health. Mild cases of periodontitis may be treated in your dentist’s office; however, if the case is severe you may be referred to a periodontist, who primarily specializes in periodontal treatments. Dentists and periodontists deploy a wide variety of treatment options for periodontitis including:
- Deep Cleaning – If your gum disease is mild, your dentist may start with a deep dental cleaning during which plaque and tartar will be removed from your teeth and gums. They may also recommend that you return for cleanings more frequently than twice a year.
- Scaling And Root Planing – This is a procedure where a periodontist will scrape away plaque and tartar from below and above the gumline. Root planing is a procedure that allows dental professionals to smooth over rough spots in the gums, which helps eliminate germs and bacteria
- Flap Surgery – During this procedure, gums are opened and lifted back, while tartar is removed. Afterward, the gums are securely replaced around the tooth to eliminate any open spaces where bacteria and tartar had previously collected.
- Soft Tissue Grafts – If gum disease has created areas of thin or weakened gums, soft tissue grafts can help. This is a procedure where gums are taken from the rough of the mouth and stitched over the area of weakened gums in order to provide additional support.
- Laser Gum Treatment – Laser gum treatment is an easy, non-invasive way to treat gum disease. Your periodontist will use a laser to quickly eliminate bacteria throughout your gums. The procedure is often much less painful than surgical treatments. Not all periodontists are licensed to perform laser gum treatment, so may want to find one who is trained in this groundbreaking procedure.
How To Prevent Gum Disease
Building good oral hygiene habits is the key to preventing gum disease. Taking the time to practice oral care every day and following the instructions of your dentist can go a long way. Good oral habits include:
- Brushing your teeth and gums twice every day
- Flossing regularly
- Rinse with an ADA-approved mouthwash
- Don’t smoke
Professional cleanings and regular visits (twice a year) to your dentist can also help prevent gum disease.
While scientists are still studying the links between gum health and the rest of the body, many medical professionals consider oral health to be a window to your overall health. Persistent gum disease can be detrimental to your well-being and can lead to other severe complications, which is why you should be treated right away.
If you’re suffering from gum disease, contact Dr. Stuart Beauchamp at Ormond Beach Perio today. We’d be happy to develop a custom treatment plan that improves your oral health today.