By Sam E. Ruvinov, D.D.S.

You may have read numerous articles on the subject, but I’ll chance it and say it again…the health of your gums effect the health of your body!

According to the National Institute of Dental Research, nearly half of adult Americans have periodontal (gum) disease.  Very often, patients are aware of having periodontal problems.  First symptoms, at the early stage of the disease, could be sensitive gums and blood on your toothbrush.  The cause of periodontal disease is dental plaque that consists of billions of bacteria and their toxins.

In the mildest form of the disease, gingivitis, the gums redden, swell and bleed easily.  There is usually little or no discomfort.  Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene.  It is reversible with professional treatment and good oral home care.  Untreated, gingivitis can advance to periodontitis.  With time, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line and infect gum tissue and bone.  Often, this destructive process has very mild symptoms.  However, eventually teeth can become loose and may have to be removed.

One of the main symptoms of periodontal disease is bad breath.  Usually it is caused by poor oral hygiene in combination with chronically infected gum tissue and bone.

Recent studies have suggested a link between periodontal disease and heart problems.  Research showed dental plaque can lead to heart attacks.

The bacteria infusion also was associated with increased blood pressure and faster heart rate. “The more bacteria was used, the greater effects we saw.” said Mark Herzberg, a professor of preventive sciences, who presented the study results.  Getting into the blood stream of a person with chronic dental infection would be easy for bacteria.  Just eating the meal would be sufficient to work bacteria into your blood stream.

A preliminary study at the State University of New York at Buffalo linked bacteria common to gum disease to cholesterol deposits in coronary arteries.

An epidemiologist at SUNY at Buffalo, presented research showing a link between osteoporosis and dental problems.  Her analysis of nearly 2,600 postmenopausal women found a strong association between having weak bones and tooth and gum disease.

Although it may seem improbable, infection in the gums of a pregnant woman may lead to a more than sevenfold increase in her risk of delivering a premature baby of low birth weight. A study suggests that untreated periodontal disease may account for a large share of premature births for which no other explanation can be found.  A research team of periodontists, obstetrician-gynecologists and epidemiologists, found after a detailed analysis of 124 births, that the bacteria, rather than directly attacking the fetus, appeared to retard fetal growth by releasing toxins into the woman’s blood stream, thereby reaching the placenta and interfering with fetal development.  In addition, the infection stimulates the woman’s body to produce inflammatory chemicals, similar to those used to induce an abortion that can cause the cervix to dilate and set off uterine contractions.

It is much easier to prevent periodontal disease than cure it.  Regular dental visits (twice a year) are highly recommended.  Periodontal disease can often be prevented by nightly flossing and using correct brushing techniques. If left untreated for years, periodontal infection gradually erodes the jaw bones and causes teeth to loosen and fall out.  Don’t postpone your next dental visit. They’re your gums; it’s your body.
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