If you've gone to the dentist recently, you've probably been like many patients: crossing your fingers in hopes that there are no cavities. While having a clean bill of health in regards to your enamel is important, have you thought about your gums? According to Perio.com, one in two Americans actually has periodontal disease! So even if you only have the early signs of gingivitis this should be a concern—especially since it can affect other systems.
What Does Gum Disease Affect?
Obviously the disease affects the gums, causing chronic inflammation and in severe cases, tooth loss. While acute inflammation is the body's natural response to defend itself from foreign invaders, chronic inflammation caused by gum disease can ramp up hormones and cause the body to attack its own tissues!
If you do a Google search on different clinical studies related to gum disease, you'll also find that it has been linked to issues such as diabetes and heart disease. In fact, the Dental Tribune presented research that actually linked gum disease to Alzheimer's. The researchers of one study believed that a gum disease bacteria (P. gingivalis) could get into the brain through the blood stream, which could then lead to mental decline.
Another study conducted by a professor at Johns Hopkins showed that one bacterial strain that causes gum disease could also lead to arthritis. Although the study didn't find a definite conclusion as to whether the gum disease or the arthritis came first, it certainly found a definite correlation between the two.
Because gum disease seems to be linked with so many other issues, it's clear that taking care of the gums is imperative to not only good oral health, but overall health.
So Why Aren't Patients More Concerned about Their Gums if It's So Serious?
Perhaps patients are more concerned with the cosmetic dentistry and having a whiter smile instead of checking their gum pockets. Perhaps patients are somewhat concerned but can't be troubled to floss.
Although there's no clear-cut answer, Philadelphia dentist Dr. Nagelberg wrote a tongue-in-cheek article to address this issue. He believes that there is a disconnect between dentists and their patients. He says that while dentists obviously know how important gum health is, they may not always make it clear enough for patients. Of course Dr. Nagelberg isn't accusing dentists of negligence—he's just pointing out that due to their expertise, what may seem like an obvious treatment plan may not even be on a patient's radar.
For instance, besides getting your gum pockets probed, did you know you can actually have bacterial identification done really easily in-office? All the dentist needs to do is get a cheek swab and send it to the lab. This is a great preventative method since the lab can identify any gum-disease causing bacteria within a week or two, should you have any.
Besides a Bacterial ID Swab, What Can I Do to Mitigate Disease?
Besides a cheek swab, you'll want to add flossing to your morning and evening brushing routine. If you smoke, now's the time to cut back on the habit or kick it altogether. And if your diet is pretty unhealthy, you should consider anti-inflammatory foods full of fiber and nutritional value, such as fruits, veggies, and lean meats.
If you already have gum disease, you should ask your dentist for an endodontist referral so you can get scaling and root planing done. During this procedure, your gums will get a deep cleaning. The endodontist can also use drugs, like Arestin, which works slowly over time so that bacteria is continually killed off days after your procedure.
Taking care of your gums isn't too difficult or time-consuming, and since it's been established that it can contribute to many physical ailments, it's definitely worth your time to talk with your dentist about any issues. You can click here for info about this topic.