Dr. Musto

Practice Limited to Periodontics and Dental Implants

920 Wyoming Avenue, Suite 203, Forty Fort, PA 18704

507-283-3611

Preventing Gum Disease

Adults past the age of 35 lose more teeth to gum disease than from cavities. Three out of four adults are affected at some time in their life. The best way to prevent cavities and periodontal disease is by proper daily tooth brushing and flossing techniques and regular professional examinations and cleanings. Unfortunately, even with the most diligent oral home care, people still can develop some form of periodontal disease. Once the disease process starts, professional intervention is necessary to prevent its progress.

Other important factors affecting periodontal and overall oral health include:

  • Tobacco use (cigarettes, dip, and cigars)
  • Diabetes status
  • Genetics/family history
  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes (females)
  • Clenching and grinding teeth
  • Systemic medications
  • Poor nutrition

Periodontal Disease and Tobacco

You are probably familiar with the links between tobacco use and lung disease, cancer and heart disease.

Current studies have now linked periodontal disease with tobacco usage. These cases may be even more severe than those of non-users of tobacco. There is a greater incidence of calculus formation on teeth, deeper pockets between gums and teeth as well as greater loss of the bone and fibers that hold teeth in your mouth. In addition, your chance of developing oral cancer increases with the use of smokeless tobacco.

Chemicals in tobacco, such as nicotine and tar, slow down healing and decrease the predictability and success of periodontal treatment.

Problems caused by tobacco include: lung disease, heart disease, cancer, mouth sores, gum recession, loss of bone and teeth, bad breath, tooth staining, decrease success of periodontal treatment and dental implants.

Quitting tobacco will reduce the chance of developing the above problems.

Diabetes and Oral Health

Individuals suffering from diabetes, especially uncontrolled diabetics, have a higher risk of developing bacterial infections of the mouth. These infections may impair your ability to process insulin, resulting in greater difficulty with controlling your diabetes. Periodontal disease in an uncontrolled diabetic will be more severe than in a non-diabetic and treatment more difficult. However, well-controlled diabetics have a lower incidence of cavities.

Steps to prevent periodontal disease include daily brushing and flossing to remove plaque from your teeth and gums, regular dental visits for professional cleaning and regular periodontal evaluation. Your health professional must also be told of your history and the current status of your condition. And finally, you can help resist periodontal infection by maintaining control of your blood sugar levels.

Oral Health and Heart Disease

Several theories exist to explain the link between periodontal disease and heart disease. One theory is that oral bacteria can affect the heart when they enter the blood stream, attaching to fatty plaques within blood vessels and contributing to the formation of a clot. Coronary artery disease is characterized by a thickening of the walls of the coronary arteries due to the buildup of fatty proteins. Blood clots can obstruct normal blood flow, restricting the amount of nutrients and oxygen required for the heart to function properly. This may lead to heart attacks.

Another possibility is that inflammation caused by periodontal disease increases plaque build up, which may contribute to artery swelling. Bacteria from the mouth can get into the bloodstream when the gums are inflamed. These bacteria can get mixed up with blood-clotting cells called platelets. These clumps of cells and bacteria can lodge inside the walls of the blood vessels, causing heart-stopping clots to form. These clots are what lead to heart disease.

Researchers have found that people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as those without periodontal disease.

Oral Health and Osteoporosis

Researchers have suggested that a link between osteoporosis and bone loss in the jaw. Studies suggest that osteoporosis may lead to tooth loss because the density of the bone that supports the teeth may be decreased, which means the teeth no longer have a solid foundation. However, hormone replacement therapy may offer some protection.

Oral Health and Ulcers

The bacteria that collect in your mouth when gum disease is present are the same bacteria that cause gastric ulcers. If the bacterial count in the mouth is high, these bacteria can be constantly traveling to the stomach, re-infecting and causing a return of ulcers.

Oral Health and Respiratory Disease

Bacterial respiratory infections are thought to be acquired through aspiration (inhaling) of fine droplets from the mouth and throat into the lungs. These droplets contain germs that can breed and multiply within the lungs to cause damage. Recent research suggests that bacteria found in the throat, as well as bacteria found in the mouth, can be drawn into the lower respiratory tract. This can cause infections or worsen existing lung conditions. People with respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, typically suffer from reduced immune function, making it difficult to eliminate bacteria from the lungs.

Scientists have found that bacteria that grow in the oral cavity can be aspirated into the lung to cause respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, especially in people with periodontal disease. This discovery leads researchers to believe that these respiratory bacteria can travel from the oral cavity into the lungs to cause infection.

Women and Periodontal Health

Throughout a woman’s life, hormonal changes affect tissue throughout the body. Fluctuations in levels occur during puberty, pregnancy and menopause. At these times, the chance of periodontal disease may increase, requiring special care of your oral health.

Puberty

During puberty, there is increased production of sex hormones. These higher levels increase gum sensitivity and lead to greater irritations from plaque and food particles. The gums can become swollen, turn red and feel tender.

Menstruation

Similar symptoms occasionally appear several days before menstruation. There can be bleeding of the gums, bright red swelling between the teeth and gum, or sores on the inside of the cheek. The symptoms clear up once the period has started. As the amount of sex hormones decrease, so do these problems.

Pregnancy

Your gums and teeth are also affected during pregnancy. Between the second and eighth month, your gums may also swell, bleed and become red or tender. Large lumps may appear as a reaction to local irritants. However, these growths are generally painless and not cancerous. They may require professional removal, but usually disappear after pregnancy.

Periodontal health should be part of your prenatal care. Any infections during pregnancy, including periodontal infections, can place a baby’s health at risk.

The best way to prevent periodontal infections is to begin with healthy gums and continue to maintain your oral health with proper home care and careful periodontal monitoring.

Women with gum disease are seven to eight times more likely to give birth prematurely to low birth weight babies. Researchers believe that the low grade gum inflammation causes the body to release inflammatory chemicals which are linked to pre-term birth.

Oral contraceptives

Swelling, bleeding and tenderness of the gums may also occur when you are taking oral contraceptives, which are synthetic hormones.

You must mention any prescriptions you are taking, including oral contraceptives, prior to medical or dental treatment. This will help eliminate risk of drug interactions, such as antibiotics with oral contraceptives – where the effectiveness of the contraceptive is lessened and pregnancy is possible.

Menopause

Changes in the look and feel of your mouth may occur if you are menopausal or post-menopausal. They include feeling pain and burning in your gum tissue and salty, peppery or sour tastes.

Careful oral hygiene at home and professional cleaning may relieve these symptoms. There are also saliva substitutes to treat the effects of “dry mouth.”