Most of us are concerned with the health and appearance of our teeth. We want our smile to look good, don’t want cavities, and certainly do what we can to avoid painful toothaches. But do we give as much thought and attention to the health of our gums?
While it’s common to hear things about gum disease on commercials or have your hygienist remind you to floss, do the health of your gums really matter all that much?
If you like your teeth and want to keep them, then yes. Your gum health should be one of your top priorities.
How Periodontal Disease Gets Started
Almost every single one of us will experience some type of gingivitis in our life. It might only be around one or two teeth because we didn’t brush well while we were sick, or it could be across our entire mouth because we never floss. Plaque buildup in our mouth triggers our immune system to start fighting a bacterial infection at—you guessed it—our gums
First, we get gingivitis. The gumlines start to swell, get a little tender, and might even bleed if you floss your teeth. It’s caused by the rush of antibodies to that area because your body is trying to ward off the bacteria in those locations.
Typically, what we want to see happen is attention drawn to that spot, then increased hygiene. As in brushing and flossing each day. Within about two weeks, symptoms are (usually) completely reversed.
But without the right home care, that gingivitis will start to progress into the next stage: periodontal disease.
Where the Big Problem Starts
Active periodontal disease no longer “just” impacts the edges of your gum tissues. Now the underlying structures are at risk as well. Your gums will begin to become necrotic and detach from the roots of your teeth, pulling back to leave exposed roots. Or they create deep “pockets” underneath the gums between the tissue and your teeth. These pockets are a haven for dental plaque, which then calcifies into tartar if not cleaned off each day.
Unfortunately, the underlying bone structures will also begin to deteriorate. Gradually, the bone shrinks further and further down the tooth, lessening the stability around the root. At first, it’s not all that noticeable, but then one day your tooth is sore when you chew. Months later, it starts to feel loose. In time, that mobility worsens until one day nothing is holding the tooth at all, and it either falls out or needs to be removed.
Your Mouth Isn’t the Only Thing at Risk
While losing your teeth can be extremely upsetting, it’s only one of the serious side effects of periodontal disease. This chronic oral infection is also directly tied to your overall wellness. We know from extensive research that aggressive periodontitis raises inflammation in the body overall and that bacteria can spread from your mouth directly into your bloodstream because of infected gum tissues. When that happens, bacteria travel through your cardiovascular system and can become lodged in arterial walls, your heart, around your brain, and even be passed on to unborn children.
There is a proven and direct relationship between gum disease and:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Preeclampsia, pre-term labor, low-birth weight, and stillbirths
…and possibly dementia.
The good news is that by removing the bacterial colonies inside of your mouth, you can significantly improve your immune system. In turn, your body begins to heal and inflammatory markers go down. Studies show us that everything from blood glucose levels to infertility concerns tends to improve within just a few months of gum disease treatment.
Know the Warning Signs
Gum disease is a condition that can be difficult to spot on your own before the symptoms evolve into something much more severe. The earliest warning signs are tender, swollen, or bleeding gums. If you don’t see an improvement in your oral health within two weeks of daily brushing and flossing, you could have periodontitis.
Moderate periodontitis typically involves visible tartar buildup, spaces between teeth, food packing between teeth or under gums when you eat, and possible visible gum recession. Sensitive teeth and halitosis tend to become more prominent as the condition evolves into a more chronic phase of the disease.
Schedule a Screening
Dr. Huynh performs gum assessments and periodontal evaluations on a routine basis on every patient. If you’re not sure when the last time was that you had a periodontal screening, call Eastport Dental in Mesa to request an appointment.