Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection of the tissues and bones that surround and support your teeth. Periodontal disease is caused by plaque which is made up ofthe food that you eat and the bacteria that resides in your mouth. This sticky plaque forms on the teeth. If the bacterial plaque is not removed by brushing, flossing and regular dental cleanings the gums become infected and inflamed.
Current research suggests that theremay be a link between periodontal disease and other diseases that affect the entire body. Studies have found links between periodontal disease and heart problems, stroke, stomach problems, diabetes and pregnancy.
The bacteria in plaque that builds upbetween the teeth and gums can enter into the bloodstream. Thesebacteria can then travel throughout the body and cause serious healthproblems.
Periodontal disease has been linked to an increase risk of developing heart disease. Bacteria from the mouth can get into the bloodstream when the gums are inflamed. There they can get mixed up with blood clotting cells called platelets. These clumps of cells and bacteria can lodge inside the walls of the blood vessels, causing heart stopping clots to form. These clots lead to heart disease. Keeping your gums healthy can reduce your risk of a heart attack.
An increased risk of developing a stroke has also been linked to periodontal disease. A new study about fatty deposits lodged in the carotid arteries of stroke suffers shows that, if the gums are inflamed, up to 40% of the bacteria that cause the deposits come from the mouth.
Ulcers in the stomach are often attributed to bacterial infections in the stomach lining. The bacteria that collect in your mouth, when periodontal disease is present, are some of the same bacteria that cause gastric ulcers. If the bacterial count in the mouth is high then these bacteria continuously travel to the stomach, causing reinfection and a return of the ulcers.
Diabetic problems and periodontal disease problems are closely intertwined. The presence of any gum inflammation can make it much more difficult for a diabetic to control their blood sugar. Also, high blood glucose (blood sugar) encourages and helps the bacteria in plaque to grow. Elimination of any gum inflammation can directly improve diabetic control.
Periodontal disease can also cause problems for pregnant women and their developing child. Pregnant women with gum disease are seven to eight times more likely to give birth prematurely to low birth weight infants. Researchers believe that low grade gum inflammation causes the body to release inflammatory chemicals which are linked to pre-term birth.
To prevent developing periodontal disease and in effect reduce the risk of developing serious systemic diseases it is important to maintain oral health. To keep teeth, bone and gums healthy follow these recommendations:
Brush your teeth well, twice day; floss between teeth every day; eat a healthy diet and avoid snacks; avoid tobacco and visit your dentist for regular exams and professional cleanings twice a year.