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Gum Disease and Dental Health

Updated: Mar 15

About Gum Disease

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is caused by plaque buildup, which is a sticky film of bacteria derived from food, and saliva. Over time, plaque hardens into tartar. If not properly removed, this dental plaque can irritate the gums and lead to infection. Gum disease is an infection in the gums that can cause bleeding, redness, and tenderness. Over time, gum disease can cause loose teeth, gum recession, and even tooth loss.

Bacteria can also cause inflammation of the gums around your teeth, called gingivitis. Gingivitis can show symptoms such as red, swollen gums that bleed easily. Gum disease can lead to tooth loss and jawbone deterioration.

Gum disease is an infection that affects the gum tissue and the bone that supports the teeth. At-home oral hygiene, such as daily brushing and flossing, can help prevent gum disease. If gum disease is caught early, treatment is likely to be less invasive and less expensive. If left untreated, the gums can become irritated, swollen, and bleed easily. If this occurs, you may be referred to a periodontist for care.

Causes of Gum Disease

Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that surround and support teeth. In most cases, periodontal disease is caused by poor oral hygiene. However, there are some factors that can increase your chances of developing periodontal disease.

  • Genetics

  • Smoking

  • Diabetes

  • Hormonal changes in women

  • Medications that cause dry mouth

High Blood Pressure and Gum Disease

Did your doctor ever recommend a dental cleaning to help with you high blood pressure or diabetes? Probably not.

The connection between high blood pressure or diabetes and gum (periodontal) disease is only now coming to light. Recent studies have been awakening an interest in both the medical and dental professions for helping patients with diabetes, atherosclerosis, lung and kidney disease. The link seems to be between the bacterial infection present in untreated gum disease and the blood stream. When these bacterial irritate the blood vessels in the mouth, an inflammatory process is established which can spread through the body. The bacteria leak into the bloodstream and establish colonies in the blood vessel of the heart. The body tries to protect itself and thickens the walls of these arteries, called hardening.

The same infection can lodge in the kidneys and the lungs causing abscesses. A recent Lancet article linked gum disease to a “small but significant” risk for oral cancer, pancreatic, kidney and blood cancers in men.

Observational studies by the American Academy of Family Physicians also found a positive connection between pre-term birth and periodontal disease.

Gum Disease Prevention

There are several ways you can prevent periodontal disease. First, practice good oral hygiene habits at home. Brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste with fluoride. This will help prevent plaque buildup. When plaque builds up, it can cause gum disease and tooth decay.

In addition, visit your dentist regularly for teeth cleaning. Your dentist will clean your teeth and check for signs of cavities or gum disease. During your appointment, your dentist may recommend additional treatments, such as fluoride or sealants.

What we know – When you have regular periodontal care you can expect:

  • Lower blood pressure, and less medication needed

  • Diabetic blood sugar levels easier to control with less or no medication

  • Less risk for stroke and Alzheimer’s

  • Fewer heart attacks.

Is There A Connection Between Gum Disease And Strokes?

Is there a connection between gum disease and strokes and if so, how can we take better care of our teeth? Strokes are the fifth common cause of death in the US. 47.2% of adults aged 30 years and older have some form of periodontal disease. As we learn more about how our oral health impacts our overall health, we have to wonder is there a link between gum disease and strokes.

What is a Stroke

A stroke is caused when a blood vessel bursts in the brain, or when oxygen to the brain is blocked by a blood clot.

Strokes cause physical signs such as:

  • A drooping face

  • Weakness in the arm

  • Slurred or impaired speech

A stroke can happen to anyone, at any age, though they are more common in:

  • People who are 65 and older

  • African Americans

  • People who lead sedentary lives or smoke or are overweight

Recent studies have shown that people who have suffered a stroke, typically had poor oral health with gum disease.

Studies have also shown that the abundance of bacteria, associated with gum disease, can get in the bloodstream, causing inflammation that makes the blood more likely to clot, which in turn can lead to a stroke.

More in-depth studies are underway to determine whether inflammation from gum disease results in vascular inflammation, or the other way around. In fact, the inflammation associated with gum disease has also been linked to conditions such as certain types cancers, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

With so many people effected by gum disease and strokes, it’s more important than ever to stay on top of your oral health.

Patients who have suffered a stroke may need support in maintaining oral health care, especially if they have cognitive or physical limitations which prevent them from remembering to complete or perform the tasks regularly.

The Link Between Oral Health And Diabetes

The link between oral health and diabetes may be stronger than you think.  A recent study from the School of Dentistry, University of Michigan provides a brief summary of the scientific evidence for the often two-way links between hyperglycemia and oral health.

Diabetes occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to create insulin, or when the body can’t make good use of the insulin it does create.

Not being able to produce insulin or use it effectively can lead to serious health problems.  Studies have shown it’s the leading cause of new cases of adult blindness, loss of lower limbs not trauma-related, kidney malfunction and gum disease. 

How is Diabetes Related to Gum Disease? Gum disease or Periodontal disease is a serious infection of the gums that can damage the soft tissue and destroy the bone that supports your teeth. 

People who have gum disease may experience higher levels of plaque and bacteria causing chronic inflammation, bleeding, pus, tooth loss and bone loss. The plaque found on your teeth is home to more than 300 different species of bacteria.

Periodontal disease, though common, is largely preventable. The leading causes for gum disease are poor oral hygiene and/or a serious medical condition such as diabetes.   How Do I Watch for Gum Disease? Schedule regular appointments and cleanings to ensure bacteria is not building up under the gum line. This is extremely important for people who have diabetes and will benefit greatly from a healthy, clean and infection-free mouth. 

And to help prevent gum disease, your daily routine should include brushing and flossing at least twice a day and/or after every meal.  How Can My Dentist Help? People who have diabetes are more prone to gum disease because of a compromised immune system.  If gum disease goes untreated, infections can set in, making blood sugar levels rise and harder to control, even with blood sugar medicines.  A dentist will be able to diagnose gum disease in the early stages to prevent the condition from becoming serious.  

To find out more about the dental services offered by our dentist in Albuquerque NM, Dr. Snyder, call (505)-293-7611, schedule an online consultation or visit us at 4830 Juan Tabo Blvd. NE, Ste. K, Albuquerque, NM, 87111.

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