Periodontal Disease Affects More Than Your Mouth

December 21, 2011

Periodontitis (meaning “inflammation around the teeth”) is the second most prevalent disease worldwide. Only tooth decay is more common. It is implicated in several diseases, including Alzheimer’s, and can cause complications in pregnant and diabetic patients. Having periodontitis doubles your risk of heart disease and may increase your risk of stroke. Periodontal disease is progressive. There are seven stages of periodontitis; only the first stage, gingivitis, is fully reversible. If left unchecked, periodontal disease leads to loss of bone mass and even teeth.

What Is Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is characterized by swollen, tender, or bleeding gums. This stage of the disease is named for the bacterium associated with it, Porphyromonas gingivalis. P. gingivalis is found in the digestive and respiratory tracts as well as the mouth. If it enters the bloodstream, it can cause systemic inflammation. This reactive inflammation is implicated in rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and aspiration pneumonia.

The microorganism responsible for dental plaque, Streptoccocus mutans, is also responsible for some heart diseases. Unlike P. gingivalis, S. mutans normally lives only in the mouth. If it enters the bloodstream, it can cause inflammation of the heart tissue known as bacterial endocarditis. Many arterial plaques contain S. mutans, linking it to increased risk of heart attack. Oral bacteria most commonly enter the system through tiny cuts caused by over-vigorous brushing or flossing. Having gingivitis also increases the risk of injury to soft tissues while flossing.

How Can I Prevent Periodontal Disease?

Proper oral hygiene is essential to overall health. You should brush twice a day for two minutes at a time, floss before bed, and rinse with mouthwash. After rinsing, don’t forget to wait 30 minutes before eating or drinking. If your gums feel tender, or you notice bleeding while cleaning, don’t wait–contact Dr. Greenfield immediately. Call Lake Orion Family Dentistry at (248) 693-6213 to schedule your dental cleaning and periodontal therapy today.

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