Most patients visit their dentist complaining about a tooth, hoping to get a check-up so they don’t need to get a filling or to replace a missing tooth. Symptoms such as bleeding gums or bad breath are often at the end of their list. The truth is, however, that periodontal disease is one of the biggest dangers for your mouth, and the effects it could have on the rest of your body are serious.
Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, starts as a low grade infection in your gum tissue, but can lead to gum tissue separating from your teeth (gum recession), and tooth loss. Typically, periodontal disease is caused by a buildup of troublesome bacteria. These bacteria form “plaque” which sticks to teeth, and can only be removed by a dental hygienist once hardened.
Though tooth loss is serious, gum disease has been linked to several other serious disorders.
According to new research from Scandinavia, some bacteria that causes gum disease may be linked to pancreatic cancer. Specifically involving the bacteria, Treponema Denticola, the study has pinpointed a mechanism at the molecular level which is involved in the forming of cancer. It’s also been associated with breast cancer, lung cancer, and colon cancer.
Many patients may wonder how a complication which occurs in the mouth can lead to complications elsewhere. Because gum disease is a chronic infection, when present for long periods of time, the bacteria present in your mouth can cross the blood barrier and enter the bloodstream. But it’s not just the bacteria themselves that are a problem. These bacteria cause your immune system to enter a heightened state, triggering chronic inflammation. This can increase your cancer risk. Gum disease bacteria can disable your immune system, too, keeping it from finding cancer cells. And certain virulence factors can trigger cancerous activity in cells.
Many studies have shown a link between periodontal disease and heart disease. Here, there are several links. One is that gum disease bacteria can enter the blood and contribute to plaque in the arteries. Also, gum disease bacteria produce special fatty acids that contribute to the plaque. Less often, bacteria can infect the heart directly. Scientists also believe that low-grade inflammation over a long period of time is to blame. Inflammation can carry over into other sections of the body causing a strain to blood vessels and to the heart.
How To Avoid Periodontal Disease
Protecting yourself against gum disease starts at home. Periodontal disease starts with plaque. If plaque is uncared for, it can develop into an infection that affects your teeth and gum tissue. Making good habits regarding oral hygiene is the best way to ensure plaque is taken care of.
Follow these simple rules:
- Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
- Floss at least once a day, preferably before you go to bed
- Take care of any outstanding dental issues
The American Dental Association recommends you receive a cleaning and checkup every six months. Gum disease doesn’t happen immediately, it slowly progresses over time. By maintaining regularly scheduled appointments, you can get the treatment you need, and stop gum disease in its tracks.
If it’s been awhile since your last checkup, then it’s time to schedule an appointment. Please call (910) 392-6060 for a general dentist in Wilmington, NC, and Kuzma Advanced Dentistry will take care of you today.