We all know periodontal disease is bad for your oral and dental health, but did you know it’s also bad news for your overall health? Periodontal disease, the most severe form of gum disease, can be a sign of serious inflammation throughout the body. Studies have shown that people with periodontal disease are at a higher risk of developing systemic inflammation — which is associated with diseases like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and arthritis.
A lot of our patients approach their overall health differently than their dental health but it’s important to remember that the two are closely connected. Dental health and overall health are so closely connected that recent studies in Qatar show that COVID-19 patients with periodontal disease are at least three times more likely to have severe COVID‐19 complications. In a world where COVID-19 is a real and prevalent fear for a lot of people, these findings are huge. Taking care of your oral health can positively affect how your body responds to the COVID-19 virus. That’s reason enough to start taking brushing and flossing more seriously!
How can I prevent periodontal disease?
The best way to prevent gum disease is a no-brainer: take care of your gums! This means brushing your teeth twice a day (and making sure your brush makes contact with your gums), flossing once a day, and going to the dentist for a cleaning every six months. If you’re doing all those things and your gums are still swollen and bleeding, you may need to go to the dentist every three months instead of every six. We’re all different which means our teeth and gums are different as well. Take the necessary measures to keep your gums healthy and pink by talking to your dentist about more frequent visits, anti-bacterial toothpaste, and oral care tips and tricks that may be helpful.
How do dentists treat periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease occurs when there’s a build-up of harmful bacteria underneath the gumline. That bacteria encourages the gums to pull away from the teeth, creating gum recession. When gum recession occurs, our patients sometimes say their teeth are getting “long” which is where the phrase “long in the tooth” comes from. While it may look like the tooth is growing, in reality, the gums are disappearing, revealing more of the tooth’s surface (which is typically buried).
If gum recession is left untreated, the threat of tooth loss can become very real. Without the gums there to help stabilize them, the teeth want to fall out. So, what can a dentist do to prevent that from happening? If your hygienist has just caught some mild gum recession, they’ll recommend a deep cleaning — also known as “scaling.” They’ll use a few special tools to clean out the bacteria under the gums. Most people need a few deep cleanings to get all of the bacteria out. For periodontal patients, we put them on a three-month cleaning schedule so we can regularly check to make sure their gums are getting healthier.
For patients with severe, long-term gum recession, we recommend deep cleanings and gum grafting. In gum grafting procedures, Dr. Robert Stanley uses a graft of natural or lab-made gingiva to cover up the exposed tooth. This helps with tooth sensitivity (which is common in people with gum recession) and can prevent future tooth loss.