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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 47% of Americans over age 30 have a periodontal (gum) disease. Even more concerning is that more than 70% of Americans 65 or older have gum disease.
Gum disease has several adverse effects on your oral health, including bad breath, loose teeth, pain, swollen gums, sensitive teeth, and bleeding. However, it does much more than affect your oral health. Countless studies show that gum disease has negative effects on other parts of your body, too.
Research shows a strong correlation between gum disease and heart disease. Doctors aren’t certain about why gum disease contributes to heart problems, but most believe swollen gums and bacteria are the main culprits.
Unhealthy gums can become inflamed, and inflammation in the body is known to contribute to hardening of the arteries. The high concentration of blood vessels in your gums also makes it easy for bacteria to travel from your mouth to your heart.
Studies also suggest that gum disease may increase your risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. One recent study determined that people over 70 who have had gum disease for at least a decade are 70% more likely to get Alzheimer’s than people without gum disease.
Many doctors think that the inflammation caused by gum disease decreases blood flow to the brain. Without an ample supply of blood, the brain can’t function normally. Eventually, the low amount of blood may cause permanent changes in the brain.
Doctors don’t know specifically how gum disease and brain health are linked. Some suggest that gum disease and Alzheimer’s have a bidirectional relationship, meaning that they contribute to each other’s severity.
Medical researchers are less certain about the connection between gum disease and certain cancers, but studies have revealed some connection, especially with:
Doctors are still researching the diseases to understand the association better.
Healthy people don’t have to do much to avoid developing gum disease. Most importantly, you should brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once a day. Ideally, you should brush and floss after each meal.
Your lifestyle can also contribute to gum disease. You significantly increase your risk of gum disease when you:
Even having crooked teeth can increase your risk of gum disease because they give bacteria more places to hide from your toothbrush.
Get your teeth cleaned at Deidra Bird Kokel, DDS at least twice per year. A deep cleaning removes the plaque where bacteria like to live. Coming in twice a year also gives Dr. Kokel a chance to examine your teeth for early signs of gum disease. If she spots a problem, she can recommend appropriate treatment options.
If you’re concerned about gum disease or if it’s been more than six months since your last dental visit, contact our office to schedule an appointment. We’re even open until 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday to fit your busy schedule.