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Gum Disease: Gingivitis and Periodontitis | Hawaii Family Dental

According to the Center for Disease Control, up to 50% of Americans suffer from gum disease. And, new evidence has found that people with gum disease are more likely to have heart disease, Alzheimer's, and dementia.

Symptoms include bad breath, red or swollen gums, tenderness, bleeding gums, and receding gums. When not treated, gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) can damage the bones, gums, and tissues, eventually leading to tooth loss. 

Pregnant women with gum disease are also putting themselves and their soon-to-be-born babies at risk. Studies show that chronic inflammatory disease can lead to preterm and underweight infants. In addition, deformities and health issues can arise when the baby is born earlier than expected.

However, gingivitis is reversible with an early diagnosis and proper care. It's one reason why seeing the dentist every six months is critical.

gum disease 

What is Gum Disease?

In the early stages, it's called gingivitis. Gums are red, sensitive, and maybe swollen. Gingivitis can be cared for during routine cleanings every six months and prevented by brushing and flossing daily. 

When untreated, gingivitis becomes periodontitis. Periodontitis causes bleeding and pain around the teeth. Eventually, the receding gums can't support the teeth, and the teeth become wobbly and fall out.


The Causes of Gingivitis and Periodontitis

Plaque and tartar build-up are the primary causes of periodontal diseases. Poor oral hygiene encourages plaque formation; plaque forms when starches and sugars in food interact with the oral bacteria. The longer plaque and tartar stay on your teeth, the more dangerous they become to your oral health.

The film of bacteria requires daily removal by brushing your teeth. However, the bacteria hardens under your gums and turns into tartar when you don't brush. Tartar creates a protective shield for bacteria and causes irritation along the gum line. It is also difficult to remove and requires cleaning with a hygienist or dentist. 

Factors that can increase the risk of gum disease include:

  • Hormonal changes make the development of gingivitis easy as gums are sensitive. Typically, this affects usually affects women during puberty, monthly menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. However, men can also experience hormonal changes in adolescence.
  • Diabetes can affect gum health too. System diseases like diabetes have a higher risk of developing infections too. Medications can also reduce saliva production, which protects the mouth against harmful bacteria.
  • Smoking, vaping, and drinking too much alcohol can also trigger periodontal disease by weakening the gum tissues' natural ability to repair themselves. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research found smoking is one of the most significant risk factors contributing to gum disease development.
  • Stress is also a risk factor for periodontitis. Stress lowers the body's ability to fight infections.
  • Clenching teeth causes excess pressure on gums, speeding up the damage done.
  • Malocclusion. Non-aligned teeth strain your jaw and cause your gums to recede. In this case, fixing up your teeth might be able to do the trick.

Gum Disease and Alzheimer's

A new study in Science Advances suggests a link between Alzheimer's and gum disease. According to Stephen Dominy, researchers discovered that P. gingivalis can migrate from the mouth to the brain. The team looked at mice infected with the mouth bacteria and found that the infectious agent eventually goes into the brain.

The study also provided hope for treatments against neurodegenerative disease through COR388. COR388 was found to lower the presence of P. gingivalis, which helps preserve the hippocampus neurons - the portion of the brain responsible for memory.

Gum Disease and Cancer

Studies have linked periodontal diseases to systemic diseases, including heart diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer.

The Lancet Oncology found men with periodontal disease had higher risks of cancer: 49% for kidney cancer, 30% for white blood cell cancer, 54% for pancreatic cancer, and 36% for lung cancer.

Additionally, the gum layer's inflammation funnels bacteria through the bloodstream, hardening the arteries and increasing the risk of a heart attack.

Gum Disease and Total Health

The Link Between other Systemic Diseases

Studies suggest that periodontal disease can lead to some systemic diseases for women and men. These include cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, stroke, heart disease, respiratory infection, and diabetes. After all, the condition and inflammation in the mouth can travel down to other parts of the body.

Arthritis | PLoS Pathogens found oral bacteria made rheumatoid arthritis worse. It also leads to an earlier onset of the disease and a faster progression of its symptoms.

Cancer | The Lancet Oncology found periodontal diseases increased cancer risk by 14%, lung cancer 36% percent, kidney cancer 49%, and pancreatic cancer 54%.

Diabetes | Gum disease can be affected blood sugar, which can contribute to the advancement of diabetes.

Heart Disease | Gum disease doubles the risk of developing heart disease. This rate may be even higher in comparison to individuals with high cholesterol. 

Preeclampsia | Preeclampsia, often known as a pregnancy complication that causes high blood pressure, swelling of hands and feet, and excess protein, increases risks too. Pregnant women are at risk for the development of gum disease due to the change in hormones. Expecting mothers have a higher chance of birthing a premature and low birth weight baby.

Respiratory Infections | Respiratory infections like pneumonia become riskier for people with gum disease. One study found that participants with respiratory disease had severe gum health due to the excess oral bacteria.

Stroke | Gum disease is linked with a higher risk of stroke because of its heightened systematic inflammatory response.

Children can Develop Gum Disease Too

Anybody can develop periodontal disease regardless of their age, even children. The thin enamel of their teeth makes them more vulnerable to bacterial attacks. In teenagers, hormonal changes may disrupt the blood flow in their gums and make them more likely to swell. So, how do children develop gum disease?

Gum disease in children begins with contamination.

Parents can pass bacteria to children when sharing utensils or blowing on hot food. If the parents have gum disease or any other oral bacteria, the bacteria can be transferred to their children. 

Don't worry though, your children aren't suddenly going to develop it too. Gum disease occurs when plaque build-up on the teeth below the gumline with time.

In teens, hormones play a part. Heightened hormone levels increase blood flow to the gums during puberty. As a result, the gums start to swell slightly and become more sensitive to brushing and flossing.

6 Tips to Help Prevent Gum Disease

#1 Reduce Your Stress

Stress can trigger many health problems. Besides higher blood pressure, stress can increase our anxiety, cause weight gain, and lower our immune system. 

#2 Avoiding some Medications

Oral contraceptives and antidepressants can increase the risk of gum disease if taken for too long. Speak with your primary care physician if you're concerned.

#3 Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet

Gum disease loves a sugary diet. A healthy diet would balance fruits, vegetables, protein, grains, and dairy while avoiding sugary snacks and processed foods. 

#4 Quit using Tobacco and Vaping.

Besides lowering your risk of gum disease eliminating tobacco use can also lower the chance of oral cancer.

#5 Visit the Dentist Twice a Year

Visiting the dentist twice a year is an opportunity to catch painful (and costly) gum disease from becoming a problem. 

#6 Don't Grind Your Teeth

Grinding your teeth can cause gum disease to progress quicker. See your dentist and get a custom, fitted night guard. 

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