Earlier this month, we posted an interesting fact on our Facebook page: “People with gum disease are twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as those without disease.”
But if you take a look behind the statement, an interesting layer of facts and controversies await. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the most important aspects of gum disease.
Gum disease is also known as periodontal disease. The following facts come from the American Academy of Periodontology:
Causes –Inflammation as a result of a bacterial infection is behind all forms of gum disease. While no single cause has been identified, important risk factors include inherited or genetic susceptibility, smoking, lack of adequate home care, age, diet, health history, and medications.
Symptoms – In its early stage, called gingivitis, the gums become swollen and red due to inflammation, which is the body’s natural response to the presence of harmful bacteria. In the more serious form of periodontal disease, called periodontitis, the gums pull away from the tooth and supporting gum tissues are destroyed. Bone can be lost, and the teeth may loosen or eventually fall out.
Diagnosis – Dentists rely on a visual assessment, including charting pocket depths with a periodontal probe, to determine if a patient has this disease. There are other tests currently available that go beyond basic and subjective visual assessment to provide dental professionals with the detailed genetic and biological information required to better determine the appropriate treatment.
Treatment –Dentists use a wide range of treatments – from a small tooth scaling to full dental implants – depending on the disease’s severity.
The Link with Heart Disease
Surprisingly, the debate about a link between gum and heart disease has raged for more than 100 years. According to the American Heart Association (AHA): “In the 1920s a crescendo of concern about the connection led to the prevalence of complete tooth extractions…Unfortunately, we didn’t cure heart disease by removing teeth.”
In more recent years, several studies have suggested that gum disease and heart disease are independently associated. Through this line of thinking, the treatment of gum disease would – in some way, shape, or form – help a person lower the risk of contracting heart disease.
The two diseases share an abundance of risk factors: smoking, being overweight, high blood pressure, and inactivity. Therefore, it stands to reason that if you suffer from these conditions you stand a higher risk of contracting one or both of these diseases.
But the AHA released a scientific statement in 2012 that declared the notion of an independent association to be unsupported. The trouble, experts say, is that the research isn’t strong enough to suggest that gum disease treatment will lessen the risk of contracting heart disease.
The Take-Away for Our Jacksonville Patients
Despite the unsupported link, the similarity of risk factors should act as a warning sign for everyone. Here are some general best practices:
– Quit smoking.
– Stay active.
– Watch your blood pressure.
– Brush, floss, and use mouthwash regularly.
– Don’t skip your check-ups.
Our staff is highly trained to diagnose gum disease in all its stages. We take our patients’ welfare seriously and will talk with you about a positive diagnosis, the next steps to take, and how we can solve this problem safely, quickly, and economically.