Surprising facts about your mouth's health
By Dr. Dara Gashparova
In my columns, I keep circling back to the gums and the gum diseases because they have huge impacts on our dental and general health. I want to start with some clarification of the terms gum disease and periodontal disease. For convenience, we often use them with the same meaning. Gum disease is the initial stage of inflammation when only the gums around the neck of the teeth are inflamed. Peridontal disease is the more advanced stage in which bacteria has spread in the jaw bone anchoring the teeth in place. Needless to say both conditions have to be treated, but periodontal disease is more dangerous and more difficult to treat.
Here are few little-known facts about periodontal disease.
- Spreads from person to person. Periodontal disease technically may not be contagious. However, it is a fact that it can be spread from one person to another through saliva. For example, if the conditions in your mouth are good for the bacteria to grow (more plaque with high sugary or starchy content) and it’s not removed by daily flossing, you can attract the bacteria and easily develop periodontal disease through a kiss or household utensils.
- Can lead to tooth loss. It is not for old people only. Periodontal disease is common after the age of 35, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention almost 70% of Americans 65 and older have periodontal disease. Left untreated, the infection can destroy the jaw bone that holds the teeth in place.
- Often associated with bad breath. Sometimes patients tell me their bad breath returns shortly after they brush. Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria, and that bacteria releases gas and byproducts causing bad breath. If you cannot seem to get rid of your bad breath, even after brushing regularly, consider seeing your dentist to be tested for periodontal disease.
- It is silent, meaning there are very few symptoms in the early stage of development. While there are some signs and symptoms associated with periodontal disease, they seems to be more obvious in the advanced stages. This is why routine dental exams are important so your dentist can see what you might be missing. When caught early, treatment is far more predictable and efficient than if it is caught in the later stages. Watch out for swollen gums that easily bleed.
- Systemic health problems. Periodontal disease affects more than just the teeth. People with periodontal disease are at higher risk for cardiovascular problems like heart disease. Left untreated, periodontal disease can make it more difficult for people with existing diabetes to control the blood sugar.
Untreated periodontal disease in pregnant women may contribute to low birth weight or preterm birth
- Periodontal disease can be prevented. The good news is that this scary disease that can affect more than just the teeth can be easily prevented. We all know that healthy eating habits with less sugar and proper oral hygiene routine are very important to keep the teeth and the gums healthy. I can’t emphasize enough how important flossing is in prevention of gum and periodontal disease. Floss all of your teeth like you mean it every night, and visit your dentist/hygienist twice a year for your routine cleaning and exam. The periodontal disease most often starts with the less dangerous form, the gum disease, and if you visit your dentist on a regular basis, you will discover the problem before you suffer the complications. Most of the time this is all you need to support your oral health and avoid health complications down the road.
For more information, contact Dr. Dara at 626-289-6131.
periodontal diseasetooth lossfew symptomssystemic health problems