Keeping Your Gums Healthy
February is not only American Heart Month – a time to get people focused on their cardiovascular health – but it’s also Gum Disease Awareness Month. Many people don’t realize how the health of your gums is actually closely connected to your overall health, especially your heart.
Dr. Cary Berdy recently appeared on WJXT to discuss this topic. Continue reading to learn more:
The Importance of Gum Health
Gum health is more important than most people realize. Our gums act as the support system for our teeth and as the foundation for an overall healthy mouth. Most people consider their teeth as the most important aspect of dental hygiene, but your gums play an integral part in oral health. They also impact other parts of the body.
Your gums serve as a seal around your teeth, protecting more sensitive tissues underneath. When harmful bacteria sit on your gums for too long, small pockets begin to form over time, creating even more space for bacteria and plaque to build. This can cause gum disease – known as periodontitis. Periodontitis can cause gum recession, lead to bone loss beneath the teeth and can even cause your teeth to loosen.
In fact, periodontitis has been linked to cardiovascular problems like heart disease and stroke. Several studies point to gum health as a predictor of heart health. Researchers suspect the bacteria present in gum disease can travel through your body and cause inflammation in the heart’s vessels and possibly infect your heart valves. In other words, periodontitis increases the body's burden of inflammation, which is a key contributor to heart problems.
The Signs and Symptoms of Gum Disease
A study published by the American Dental Association found that more than 4 in 10 adults have some form of gum disease – and many may not realize it.
Signs of gum disease include:
- Gum irritation
- Swollen gums
- Gums that are increasingly red in color
- Bad breath
Another telltale sign of gum disease is bleeding gums. Healthy tissue should not bleed (unless you’re abusing it). In other words, regular flossing should not cause your gums to bleed.
You’ve probably heard of the mildest form of gum disease: gingivitis. It’s often caused by poor oral hygiene – not enough brushing and flossing.
How to Prevent Gum Disease
You can start with brushing for 2-3 minutes at least twice a day with an ADA-approved fluoridated toothpaste. Be sure to focus along the gum line.
Other methods of prevention include:
- Flossing every day
- Cleaning the tongue and Waterpiking to reduce the plaque buildup and bacteria in your mouth
- Incorporating mouth rinse into your dental hygiene routine
- Eating a healthy diet - minimizing starchy and sugary food when possible, as these increase plaque
- Seeing your dentist on a regular basis
Gum Disease Treatment
Gum disease seems like a simple dental issue, but it can quickly become serious and can have intense effects on your quality of life if left untreated. It’s very important to catch and treat gingivitis early because if left unchecked, it can develop into periodontitis, which typically involves gum recession and can eventually lead to bone loss and tooth loss. The earlier you catch gum disease, the more manageable it is.
Berdy Dental Group offers regular periodontic treatments to keep gum disease under control in high-risk patients. While gum disease is not curable, our dentists work diligently to help treat the condition. This usually involves visiting our office on a regular basis – typically once every three months – for a professional deep cleaning that involves removing plaque and bacteria from both above and below the gum line.
Patients seeking treatment could also opt for the minimally invasive LANAP® treatment, which uses laser-assisted gum therapy to eliminate diseased tissue and bacteria from the mouth. This technique uses a soft tissue laser to eliminate diseased tissue and bacteria from the mouth and remove plaque from tooth roots. We then remove plaque and calculus from the roots of your teeth and use the laser to sterilize, clean and repair the periodontal pocket.
At Berdy Dental Group, we encourage all of our patients to visit us at least twice per year for a regular checkup, or what we like to call oral health “maintenance.” During these appointments, we provide a thorough dental exam to catch any problems – including gum disease, oral cancer, cavities and more.