Medicine

Published on February 27th, 2018 | by Hadeel Mohammed Abbood

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Your Gums, the Gate to Your Health

Practicing good oral hygiene on a daily basis will keep the number of pathogens at low levels, that can be controlled by your immune system.

Periodontitis is an inflammation of gums and the tissue surrounding the teeth that includes the alveolar bone. This inflammation is usually caused due to accumulation of dental plaque, which is a white to yellowish deposit that appears on your teeth. Dental plaque, simply put, is made up of a large number of microbes. Normally, this bacterial plaque is formed spontaneously within 8 hours after brushing your teeth. Therefore, it is highly recommended to brush your teeth two to three times a day to avoid the over-accumulation of dental plaque. Interdental spaces could be a good place for this plaque to accumulate, as these spaces are not accessible by ordinary brushing techniques. Therefore, dentists recommend using interdental brushes or dental floss on a daily basis. Practicing good oral hygiene will keep the number of pathogens at low levels, that can be controlled by your immune system, so they cannot invade the gums and produce inflammation. However, there are some people who are more susceptible to developing periodontitis than others. This is usually based on the person’s immune system, which is affected by the environment and the person’s genetic background.

… early stages of inflammation are easily manageable by routine scaling and polishing, in addition to practicing good oral hygiene.

The first signs of gums inflammation are swelling, redness, and bleeding after brushing or eating any fibrous food. These early stages of inflammation are easily manageable by routine scaling and polishing, in addition to practicing good oral hygiene. If you neglect these signs, pathogens will invade the deep periodontal tissue and dissolve the alveolar bone and the connective tissue between the bone and the tooth root. This might lead to the formation of a space between the tooth surface and gums that is called a periodontal pocket. Pockets should not normally be present or if so, their depth should not exceed 3mm. Gum recession and exposure of the root surface might occur as a consequence of this destruction. Tooth migration or gradual positional changing, loose teeth and spontaneous tooth loss might occur in late stages of the condition, without treatment.

From the above, it is clear that gum disease can impact oral health by loss of function, pain and discomfort. It can also affect patients’ self-esteem and their dietary balance.

Recent studies have shown that periodontitis is linked to serious systemic conditions such as heart problems, diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s, preterm birth and low birth weight.

But, are you aware of the effect of periodontitis on your general health? Recent studies have shown that periodontitis is linked to serious systemic conditions such as heart problems, diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s, preterm birth and low birth weight. Researchers have identified DNA traces of periodontal microbes in thrombi (blood clots) of patients with acute myocardial infarction (heart attacks), which might highlight the role of these microbes in the formation of thrombi.

In pregnant women who suffer from pre-eclampsia, a form of high blood pressure during pregnancy, studies have identified the presence of periodontal pathogens in the tissue of the placenta. It has been hypothesised that periodontal microbes can be translocated from the gums to other parts of the body through the blood stream via increasingly permeable blood vessels, due to inflammation. Other possible ways of bacterial dissemination are by swallowing a large amount of these pathogens, which in turn can lead to a disturbance of the bacterial environment in the gut.

… treating periodontitis can help manage other diseases.

Further research has been undertaken to investigate the effect of periodontal treatment on other conditions. It has shown that treating periodontitis can help manage other diseases. For example, patients who are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, while undergoing periodontal treatment, have shown a reduction in arthritis disease activity. Another example may be diabetes mellitus. Unmanaged the condition might lead to worsening of the periodontitis, however, treating periodontitis might lead to control sugar level in blood, by allowing more regulation of the diet.

More and more studies are now focussing on the impact of periodontitis on general health. We have to be aware that having gum disease will not only affect our teeth, but might affect our general health as well and make us more prone to other serious health risks. It is important to take care of your teeth by following a few simple steps: brushing your teeth at least twice a day, flossing between the teeth daily, and visiting the dentist for a routine dental check-up every 6 months or as advised by your own dentist. All that will keep you smiling confidently and feel good about your health. And remember your gums’ health is the gate to your general health!

Featured image by Kjerstin Michaela (CC0) on Pixabay.

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