A THREAT WITH
TEETH IN IT
2 March 2008
GROWING EVIDENCE SHOWS THAT GUM DISEASE
CAN BE SERIOUS, EVEN FATAL
Once again, Mom was
right: For years she hounded you to brush and floss
regularly to help keep your teeth and gums healthy. Little did she or
anyone else know then that following her oral hygiene advice may also
protect you from serious illness and disease.
- II'S MORE
THAN EVER TO TAKE AGGRESSIVE ACTION AGAINST PERIDONTAL DISEASE.
- There's significant
cevidence that gum or periodontal disease may put people at increased
risk for heart attacks, stroke, diabetes and some cancers [and some
- An estimated 80 percent of
American adults have some form of periodontal disease, according to the
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research at the National
Institutes of Health
- In March, 2007, a study
published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that treating
severe gum disease can improve the function of blood vessel walls,
improving heart health.
- The April 2007 issue of the Journal of
Periodontology published studies that found periodontal bacteria in the
arteries of people with heart disease and in the placentas of pregnant
women with high blood pressure.
- Another study in that
journal found that gum disease may predispose some people to developing
early signs of diabetes.
- Early in 2007, a Harvard
School of Public Health study of more than 50,000 men showed that those
who had gum disease had double the risk of getting pancreatic cancer
than those without gum disease.
- Although the cause and effect of
periodontal disease linked to other diseases is not absolutely proven,
the data is starting to pile up.
- The main cause of gum disease is bacteria,
which is found in plaque, a sticky, colorless film that constantly
forms on the teeth and tongue.
THE EARLY STAGE OF PERIODONTAL DISEASE IS THE RESULT OF SLOPPY BRUCHING
AND HAPHAZARD FLOSSING, LEADING TO SWOLLEN AND BLEEDING GUMS.
- The main cause of gum disease
which is found in plaque, a sticky, colorless film that constantly
forms on the teeth and tongue.
- If periodontal disease hurt as much as an
infected finger, people would get themselves treated early.
- A lot of people go untreated for
periodontal disease because most of the time it doesn't hurt.
- If your gums bleed when brushing, you
have the start of gingvitis.
- Gingivitis is
reversible with professional treatment and diligent home oral care.
- Daily brushing,
scraping and other forms of interdental cleaning usually remove plaque
to keep the gums healthy.
- Left untreated, gingivitis can develop
into periodontitis, advanced gum disease.
- About three of every 10
adults over age 65
have lost all of their teeth because of cavities and gum disease,
according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- As tartar and plaque
continue to build up, pockets form between the teeth and gums and the
gums may begin to recede.
- As the pockets become
deeper, the disease destroys more gum tissue and progresses to the
bone, which can eventually cause teeth to become loose or fall out.
DENTIS, PEIODONTIST OR DENTAL HYGEIST CAN REMOVE PLAQUE THROUGH DEEP
CLEANINGS CALLED SCALING AND ROOT PLANING.
- If inflammation and
deep pockets remain after cleaning and medication, it may be necessary
to do flap surgery. That involves lifting back the gums and
removing the tartar.
- Your periodontist may
also suggest bone and tissue grafts to help replace or encourage new
growth of bone or gum tissue destroyed by the disease.
- By the time they
feel or notice anything, it's too late. The bacteria has already eaten
away at the bone and tissue.
NUMBER OF STUDIES INDICATE THAT THE UNCHECKED INFLAMMATION AND BACTERIA
IN THE MOUTH MAY BE AT THE ROOT OF MANY PROBLEMS THROUGHOUT THE BODY
- The bacteria in plaque
produce toxins that trigger an immune response and the release of
chemicals called cytokines to wall off and kill the bacteria.
- When too many cytokines
are released, inflammation increases, damaging tissues in all areas of
the body and causing increased blood pressure levels, high cholesterol
levels and increased blood clotting, which can lead to potentially
fatal heart attacks and strokes.
- Inflammation is a very important
phenomenon in the spectrum of all kinds of diseases.
- The inflammatory
messengers sent out by diseased gums are taken by the bloodstream to
distant sites in the body and can affect overall health, perhaps
triggering autoimmune diseases.
researchers believe that when periodontal bacteria travel from the
mouth through the bloodstream, they may lodge in the blood vessel
walls, triggering inflammation and causing the walls to thicken.
- A thickened blood
vessel wall can increase a person's risk of heart disease and heart
- Just like with diabetes, a gingivitis
patient will always be stuck with periodontal disease once it starts.
- Persons with
gingivitis will have to be more vigilant about oral hygiene than the
next person who doesn't have any deep pockets.
- Persons afflicted
with gingivitis may need to get their teeth cleaned four times a year
and use special mouth rinses. But, if you work at it, you can control
- Mount ulcerations are common in
immunosuppressed people either due to immunosuppression or to side
effects of medications.
- A very effective preventive treatment
isaqueous chlorhexadine gluconate .2% solution used as a twice daily
- <>It may have to be compounded in a local
pharmacy as the prescribed commercial preparation (Peridex or
Periogard) has alcohol as a preservative, which dries out the mouth.>
- <>HOW TO KEEP THOSE GUMS
IN THE PINK>
- <>>The best way to prevent
periodontal disease is to take oral hygiene seriously.
- Gum disease can begin in the adolescent or
teenage years, when they rarely floss for weeks, months, sometimes
years at a time,
- Food and bacteria get stuck
between the teeth and never removed and break down by nature. Parents
need to remind their children daily to floss during their early years
so it becomes an ingrained habit.
- It's never too late to start taking care
of teeth and gums. The following factors may increase your risk of
developing periodontal disease.
- Inadequate oral hygiene
- Most dental experts recommend brushing at
least twice a day, morning and night, and flossing at least once a day,
preferably before bed.
- Have teeth professionally
checked and cleaned at least every six months.
- Because tobacco can dull the immune
response and decrease the amount of oxygen in the mouth, smokers are
two to seven times more likely to develop periodontitis than nonsmokers.
- The first biological tissue
the hot (tobacco) gases come in contact with are the gums,
- Up to 30 percent of the population may be
genetically susceptible to gum disease.
- Despite aggressive oral
care habits, these people may be six times more likely to develop
- Persons whose parents had gum disease
should tell your dentist and hygienist
- They may recommend more
frequent cleanings and special mouth rinses to reduce the plaque.
- Diabetes [and perhaps
- People who have diabetes tend to have more
severe gum disease and get it earlier than non-diabetics.
- Gum infections can impair a diabetic's
ability to process and/or use insulin, which may cause the diabetes to
be more difficult to control and the periodontal infection to be more
severe, resulting in a greater loss of bone and connective tissue.
- Diabetics need to tell their dentist and
hygienist about their condition and be vigilant about oral care and
blood sugar management.
- Hormonal changes
- During puberty, pregnancy and menopause
hormones are changing, and these changes can affect tissues in the
body, including gums, which can make them more susceptible to gum
- With hormone change, the
tissues overreact to plaque and can cause more gingivitis, more
puffiness and bleeding of the gums. The problem can be controlled with
good home oral care and professional cleanings.
- Research shows that stress can make it
more difficult for the body to fight off infection, including
- Stress can affect your gums big time,
- With stress there's
often a lack of sleep and poor diet and so tissues are more sensitive
to plaque and there's often more bleeding (of the gums).
- Teeth grinding
- Grinding or clenching the teeth
softens the bone around the neck of the tooth, and it's easier for the
infection to spread and the bone and ligaments to be injured.
- If you know you grind your teeth, talk to
your dentist about getting a mouth guard to wear when you sleep.
- Some drugs - including oral
contraceptives, anti-depressants and a few epilepsy and heart medicines
- can affect oral health.
- Tell your dentist or
periodontist about all medications you're taking.
- Poor nutrition
- A diet lacking important nutrients can
compromise the body's immune system and make it harder to fight off
infection, including periodontal disease.
- Kissing or sharing
- According to the AAP, the bacteria that
cause periodontal disease can pass through saliva.
- The common contact of
saliva in families puts children and couples at risk for contracting
the gum disease of another family member.
- Gum disease is
communicable if the person you're giving it to has deep enough pockets
between the teeth and gums to harbor bacteria.
TO CHEW ON
- For helpful info, click on Diseases and Conditions, then Gum
(Periodontal) Diseases and, under Publications, Causes, Symptoms and
- Here you'll find an assessment test, referrals, treatment suggestions
and oral health tips.
- Mayo Clinic's section on periodontitis covers symptoms, treatment and
- Type "oral health" in the search box to learn about the connections
between poor gums and coronary disease.
- "Reversing Gum Disease
Naturally: A Holistic Home Care Program", by Sandra Senzon
- A dental hygienist offers advice on how to care for teeth and gums
and reverse gingivitis or periodontitis.
- "The Oral
Health Bible", by Michael
P. Bonner and Earl Mindell (2003). The book discusses oral health
techniques, nutritional supplements and other products to reverse gum