Has it been a while since your last dentist appointment? If you experience tender gums or spit blood after brushing or flossing, it may be a bigger deal than you think and it could be time to consult with your dentist.

Tender gums and spitting blood may be a sign that you have periodontitis, an early form of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a serious condition. Without proper treatment, it can lead to greater health concerns. In addition to the oral and dental consequences, research shows that those who suffer from periodontal disease, or gum disease, often suffer from more serious, and even life-threatening conditions like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

 

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What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease is a progressive condition in which bacteria collects and colonizes above and below the gumline. These colonized bacteria collect in pockets in the gingival tissue and can be introduced into your system through an oral infection. In advanced cases, gingival tissue damage and bone loss are also present as a result of this disease.

Periodontal Disease and Heart Disease

It is common knowledge among cardiologists and periodontists that a strong link exists between heart disease and periodontal disease. Research reveals the following connections:

  • Hardening of the arteries: The infections that often accompany periodontal disease introduce harmful bacteria into the bloodstream. One such bacterium is streptococcus sanguinis (S.sanguinis). When it penetrates the vascular gum tissue, this bacterium contributes toward atherosclerosis, also know as hardening of the arteries.
  • Blood clots: The strains of oral bacteria that enter the bloodstream in periodontal infections attach to fatty proteins throughout the body, increasing the risk of blood clot formation. Thickening of the vascular tissue is an ongoing issue in heart disease patients; therefore introducing colonized bacteria that increases the likelihood of blood clots is a serious issue.
  • Chronic inflammation: Periodontal disease causes inflammation in the gingival tissue related to potential infection. The body fights infection through an increase in white blood cells and C-reactive protein levels (CRP). Researchers agree that there is a direct correlation between elevated CRP and heart disease. Elevated CRP levels indicate chronic inflammation in the body, and the presence of chronic inflammation leads to atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.
  • Weakened immune system: Patients with high levels of oral bacteria generally have weaker immune systems and an inadequate host inflammatory response. This impedes the body’s ability to ward off or fight infection.
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Periodontal Disease and Stroke

A stroke occurs when the blood flow to the brain is disrupted, damaging valuable brain tissue. That disruption in blood flow may be caused by a blocked artery, a hemorrhage, or a partial, temporary disruption in blood flow called a TIA.

One link between periodontal disease and strokes is a specific bacterium present in periodontal disease—streptococcus sanguinis (S.sanguinis), the same bacterium contributing toward hardening of the arteries and chronic inflammation. When introduced into the bloodstream through periodontal disease, this bacterium thickens the walls of the carotid artery. The thicker the carotid artery walls, the greater the risk of stroke.

Periodontal Disease and Diabetes

Researchers have studied the link between periodontal disease and diabetes for nearly fifty years. Here are some of their findings:

  • Diabetics suffer from gum disease at a higher rate than those without diabetes.
  • Periodontal disease raises the blood sugar, making blood sugar levels difficult to control especially among Type 2 diabetics.
  • The symptoms associated with periodontal disease are generally worse among diabetic patients. The difficulty with wound-healing in diabetic patients exacerbates this issue.
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Diagnosing Periodontal Disease

Since periodontal disease is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, it is important to seek timely treatment from a trusted dentist, like Dr. Skalnik of Dental Care South. He can perform a thorough examination of your teeth, gum tissue, and the bone structure of your upper and lower jaw to look for signs of gum disease. Your dentist may also conduct a deep cleaning that includes scaling and root planing to remove tartar buildup. Oral antibiotics may also be prescribed (if needed) to treat infection.

As with many medical issues, the key to long-term wellness is prevention and early treatment. Good oral hygiene habits like brushing twice daily, flossing, and regular dental check-ups in our Tuscaloosa office will go far in preventing the onset of periodontal disease. If you suspect you have periodontitis, the precursor to periodontal disease, early diagnosis is vital, so make an appointment today to best protect yourself.

Contact Our Tuscaloosa, AL Office for More Information!

Dental Care South is the trusted family dentistry practice for Tuscaloosa, AL. We provide dental expertise in many areas, including periodontal disease and restorative dentistry. Contact our team today to learn more.