Periodontitis & Degenerative Diseases of the Body

Did you know that maintaining your oral health will help you maintain your overall health and can even improve it?

Dentistry is much more than eliminating pain and creating a beautiful smile. It is about creating a healthy mouth that reduces your risk for many types of disease. We care about you and want you to care about your own well being. For this reason, we should consider the prevention and treatment of gum disease one of the highest priorities in oral care.

Periodontitis, Oral Care & General Health

Our mouths are constantly exposed to bacteria, and these bacteria feed on carbohydrates left on our teeth from the foods we eat. A colony of bacteria will easily grow and collect along the gum line of your teeth, as well as in the gum pockets below your gum line. When the gums and teeth are compromised, the bacteria, as well as viruses, gain entry into the bloodstream, travelling to other systems of the body. This will have significant consequences not only for your oral health in and of itself, but also for your overall general well being.

To control oral bacteria, reduce periodontal inflammation, and prevent dental cavities and gum infection, we recommend:

  • Regular dental checkups twice a year
  • A set of digital x-rays once a year
  • Professional teeth cleanings two or more times a year
  • Emergency treatment of any existing oral disease

It also goes without saying that proper dental maintenance will include brushing, flossing and rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash on a daily basis. Even if you are flossing and brushing your teeth every day, professional teeth cleanings are still necessary in order to remove dental plaque buildup from the teeth, including below the gum line.

When gum diseases go untreated

If dental or gum disease are not treated early on, they will advance and spread inflammation of the tissues that support your teeth. This kind of inflammatory disease is referred to as periodontitis, which will cause much oral discomfort, provoke bleeding and swelling of the gums, and eventually lead to tooth loss. Moreover, in addition to these consequences, research studies have made clear that chronic periodontal infection has a cross-correlation with multiple systemic diseases. These conditions include, but are by no means limited to, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, pulmonary infection, head and neck cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Periodontitis has also been linked to obesity and preterm birth.

Periodontitis is an inflammatory disease, and all of the above-mentioned systemic diseases (and even more) are inflammatory in nature. While you may be conscious of gum tenderness and swelling, most people are not aware of the actual tissue degradation occurring, and the spread of infection elsewhere in the body.

Although the American Dental Association states “well-designed clinical trials are needed to establish whether a cause-and-effect relationship exists and to determine if, or how, treating gum disease may affect overall health,” recent studies have concluded that inflammation is a hallmark response to bacteria in the bloodstream and that inflammation is not only linked to both oral and systemic diseases, but it is also a link between oral and systemic diseases.

Besides, good oral hygiene and regular checkups and cleanings, what can you do?

Studies have linked diets high in processed foods (e.g. “fast food” and “junk food”) with inflammation inside the body. We recommend cutting back on convenience foods and sugary/starchy foods that increase the risk of gum disease. You can reduce inflammation in the mouth and your entire body by changing your diet to fresh, whole foods and eliminating highly processed foods. You can also eliminate the use of tobacco products and limit alcohol consumption, both of which increase the risk of periodontitis.

The various systems of the body need to be balanced and optimally functioning. Achieving this requires regular exercise, eating nutritious foods, getting enough rest, good hygiene, seeking appropriate health care, and then doing your part to comply with health provider instructions to prevent and treat disease.

In addition to the above, your genetic makeup, stress, and emotional state have an effect upon your physical wellbeing. In order to let your oral care physician help you achieve best health, it is vital that you inform him or her of any present systemic condition (such as diabetes and cardio-vascular disease). Also, let them know about all of the medications and nutritional supplements you are taking. Don’t be surprised if they converse about dietary habits and ask about the degree of stress in your life – it may seem trivial to you, but it’s extremely important information for them to know!

Your oral health is part of your overall physiological system, so it is affected by and inextricably related to many factors. A good dentist will do his or her best to understand and help you gain knowledge about your health. Together this way, you can improve all the many aspects of your oral health, as well as support behavioral changes and health initiatives to achieve optimal overall health.

Contributed by: Boynton Beach Dentist

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