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The Importance of Gum Health

The importance of gum health extends beyond the mouth as it may have a significant effect on whole-body health. Plenty of research, including recently published studies, shows that gum health may influence the following:

  • Overall mouth health
  • The stability and longevity of the teeth
  • An increased risk of chronic health problems and diseases
  • The severity of chronic diseases
  • The overall appearance of the teeth

There are several important reasons to prioritize gum health. Here is a closer look at each reason, as well as some tips on how people can keep their gums in good shape.

Advanced Gum Disease Causes Inflammation and Tooth Loss

Gum disease eventually progresses from gingivitis to periodontitis – both characterized by gum inflammation. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease, but even at this stage, inflammation, redness and bleeding gums are common symptoms. Fortunately, gingivitis can be reversed before it advances to periodontitis with prompt treatment and improved oral hygiene.

If gingivitis is not treated, bacteria will invade deeper into the gums and cause inflammation to spread. As a result, periodontal pockets will emerge and the gums may separate from the teeth. This process will eventually cause inflammation to worsen and periodontal pockets to deepen further – threatening the underlying bone tissue and causing instability around the teeth – which may need to be removed if too much bone is lost.

On top of tooth loss, the resulting inflammation and bleeding can increase the risk of bacterial infections and other health problems in the body.

Periodontal Disease Increases the Risk of Other Chronic Diseases

Gum health plays a clear role in overall oral health, but emerging research suggests that it may be a factor in whole-body health as well. Medical studies haven’t demonstrated a causal link between gum disease and other chronic conditions, but patients with periodontitis appear to be at a higher risk of the following:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic respiratory disease – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), in particular
  • Dementia
  • Problems during pregnancy and childbirth
  • Some forms of cancer
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

For example, a 2018 study published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology looked at 975,685 adults with tooth loss and found a moderate correlation between tooth loss and coronary heart disease. Another piece of research, published in the British Journal of Cancer, discovered that a primary bacteria involved in periodontitis – Treponema denticola – may spread virulence factors to other parts of the body via inflammation. These virulence factors have been found in some gastrointestinal and pancreatic tumors, suggesting a potential link between periodontitis and cancer.

Many dentists believe the oral health/whole body health connection could be due to an increased inflammatory load. With more inflammation to manage, the body may be more susceptible to chronic disease and infection, and gum disease forces the immune system to maintain a constant low level of inflammation in the mouth.

Periodontitis May Worsen Other Chronic Diseases

In addition to increasing the risk of chronic disease, poor gum health may exacerbate symptoms of other chronic conditions. This, again, may be explained by an increased inflammatory load. For example, some diabetes research shows that periodontitis worsens diabetes symptoms and increases the risk of serious complications. Treating severe gum disease also seems to improve other chronic conditions resulting from inflammation, including diabetes.

It’s interesting to note that the reverse has also been found. Some chronic conditions can also increase the risk of developing periodontitis. Clearly, there’s a link between oral health and other aspects of health.

Poor Gum Health Can Negatively Affect a Patient's Smile

Gingivitis and periodontitis are unmistakable as they cause noticeable redness and swelling. Bleeding of the gums is common and advanced periodontitis can result in tooth loss. This is concerning enough from an oral health standpoint, but it can sap a person’s confidence, too.

Signs and Symptoms of Gum Disease

If any of the following problems are present, they could be signs of developing gum disease:

  • Gums that are red or swollen
  • Gums that are tender to the touch
  • Gums that bleed easily after eating or brushing
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Brown calculus around the gum line
  • Signs of pus or discharge around the gums

These symptoms indicate emerging gum issues and merit an appointment with your dentist for further examination.

How People Can Prioritize Their Gum Health

Gum health is important for oral and whole-body health, and the good news is that people can protect it by doing the following:

  • Daily brushing and flossing – Dentists recommend brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once. Use a fluoride toothpaste and consider using an interdental toothbrush if you have bridges or large spaces between your teeth.
  • Choose healthy, low-inflammation foods – Low inflammation foods can help reduce the severity of inflammation-caused conditions like gum disease. These foods include vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and fish.
  • Avoid smoking – Research is clear that smoking is a major risk factor for periodontitis and inflammatory conditions in general. Some studies show that regular smokers have triple the risk of developing periodontitis. Other studies show a nearly six-fold increase in risk among heavy smokers.
  • Schedule regular dentist appointments – Your dentist can spot emerging signs of gum disease during a routine examination. They can also act quickly to treat gingivitis before it progresses and correct any cosmetic issues caused by advanced gum disease.

A Reputable Houston Dentist Can Help with Gum Health

The importance of gum health cannot be overstated. Gum disease can cause unsightly swelling and bleeding, compromise teeth, destroy bone tissue – and that’s just in the mouth. Severe periodontitis can undermine overall health in many ways, including exposing patients to heightened risk of serious, chronic health issues.

Gum health can be preserved by observing proper oral hygiene, making smart oral healthcare decisions and getting regular dental check-ups and cleanings from a reputable Houston dentist.

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