Do I have Gum disease?

Two definitions to start:

1)Gingivitis- is the inflammation of the outermost soft tissues of the gums. Also referred to as gum disease.

2)Periodontal disease: Are the group of diseases that affect the tissues that support and anchor the teeth. In a nut shell, if the disease involves the anchoring bone, it is referred to as periodontitis. If it involves the gums, it is referred to as gingivitis. You can have active gingivitis without active periodontitis, but not the other way around.

Another of my ‘blogs’ will address the importance of keeping your gums healthy. The more your gums bleed increase your chances of developing coronary artery disease, stroke and diabetes. The simplicity of this, is have your dentist and hygienist regularly be diligent and thorough about keeping your gums clean, and you won’t generally have bleeding gums.

Periodontal disease and tooth decay are the leading causes of tooth loss in older adults. However, people should realized that even though the possibility of developing periodontal disease does increase with age, it doesn’t mean you will develop it. While the inevitability of getting old occur (getting wrinkles, eyesight decreasing, hearing decreasing) periodontal disease can often be prevented. As we age, we do become more prone to getting gum disease due to a decrease in general health status, diminished immune response, medications, worsening memory, diminishing salivary flow and functional impairments. Every person’s gum condition is not the same, and they should not be treated the same. Some people, even at advanced ages, have managed to avoid any periodontal issues at all.

Find a dentist who takes the time to listen to you and discuss with you any alterations in your changing health condition(s), and any alterations in your at home oral care routine that become necessary as your mouth changes. The dentist may have excellent things they can do for you, or even free advice to give, that can keep those teeth of yours more comfortable, and even in your head longer.

It is always a good idea to develop good habits when you are young, to be able to carry that good routine into later years. This includes brushing correctly and flossing properly. Ask your dental professional to make sure you are doing it correctly, it only takes a minute at the end of your appointment to show them what you do, and they can give advice as needed on how to improve if necessary. You’re paying them, get all you can out of it.

Sadly, as we get older things do change in your mouths, and when they do, the routines of brushing and flossing developed when younger need to change as well. Also remember, everyone and everyone’s periodontal condition is different, they should not be all treated the same way. See your dentist regularly, develop excellent routines and habits when young to carry on when you’re older, and change slightly as necessary. Be aware of small bits of information like this as they can result in big benefits.

Dr. Mike

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Is Gum disease going to give me a heart attack?

Gum disease has varying levels of severity. If your gums bleed, periodontal bacteria and bacterial toxins enter the bloodstream resulting in an inflammatory response by your body. This response is your body’s chemical and biologic reaction to these invaders.

Usually you’d expect this “inflammatory response” to be beneficial, most of the body’s inflammatory responses are positive for you. But in this case, the inflammatory response is the reverse of that as it causes harm to the body. It sounds odd, but picture yourself exercising for the cardiovascular health benefits and pulling a muscle, it’s a positive activity resulting in harm.

The inflammatory response your body has to these bacteria and bacterial toxins lead to arterial plaques and hardening of the arteries.

The increased plaque and artery hardening leads to a heart attack and stroke.

Eliminating gingivitis and periodontal disease, lowers a patient’s probability of heart disease and stroke. Preventing any periodontal disease, along with treating active disease could mean you’ll live longer even without changing your diet and exercising (although that is important as well, of course).

One study reports “patients who saw a dentist at least once a year were four times less likely to have a history of cerebral vascular accident (stroke)” (Dr. Walter Loesche) Also, periodontal involvement of numerous teeth (15-28) and bone loss of greater than 6mm was “highly associated” with stroke risk.

Dr. Barnes’ recommendation is to use common sense and don’t be frightened by information. It is just that, information. What is true for some is not necessarily true for all. The above periodontal disease and heart condition pairing has been proven to be true in many cases, but we’ve found in some people with active periodontal disease, who also had recent check ups at their cardiologist’s office, that they have reported a normal level of C-reactive proteins, E-selectin and von Willebrand factors that would suggest the poor periodontal health for these particular people aren’t necessarily affecting their heart condition. But also look at it this way. A simple visit to your dentist’s office on a regular basis to get your teeth thoroughly cleaned and maintained generally costs less for the cleaning (normal prices) once every 6 months, than even a bottle of pills you get prescribed by your MD every month to lessen your chances of having a heart attack or stroke. And you get other benefits as well, whiter teeth, better breath, and elimination of that nagging over your shoulder mother’s guilt for not getting yourself taken care of like you should.

Dr. Mike –

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