When most people think of dental problems, they imagine cavities, cracked teeth and infections that require unpleasant treatments such as root canal therapy. In reality, gum disease is a much greater problem for numerous people; in fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly half of all Americans suffer from some form of periodontal disease. Painful and unpleasant, this problem can lead to tooth-loss and serious infections. That said, a growing body of evidence suggests that it could also put our lives at risk by leaving us susceptible to dangerous health problems.
Studies have demonstrated that gum disease is associated with numerous medical issues. For many years, health experts believed that bacteria were the primary factor responsible for the link; however, nowadays, more and more studies are indicating that inflammation may be the true catalyst. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that gum disease leaves us susceptible to dangerous medical problems that could shorten our lives.
The List Continues to Grow
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, gum disease appears to play a role in the development of several health problems, including:
- Heart disease
- Respiratory diseases
Again, it’s not clear how gum disease works to promote these issues; however, it is clear that it does.
Prevention and Treatment
Good oral hygiene can go a long way toward preventing gum disease; however, when the problem does occur, rapid treatment becomes essential. According to Dr. Mark Dunayer who runs a dental practice in West Nyack, New York, patients can avoid serious issues by seeking timely help.
“Patients frequently think that when it comes to their teeth, plaque is their only enemy,” he said. “The reality is that gum disease is a more common cause of tooth loss, and it can lead to many more serious problems as well. The good news is that patients who are aware of the warning signs of gum disease can get help and stop gum disease in its tracks with the various types of gum disease treatments that are available.”
To treat gum disease, dentists such as Dunayer often employ root planing and scaling treatments which remove excess tartar and plaque from underneath and above the gum line. In addition, patients may also receive antibiotics to kill potential infections.
That said, advanced gum disease may require surgical procedures, so it’s important to maintain regular dental checkups to help identify potential problems before they get out of hand.