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Dental Consequences | Medical Consequences | Other Risk Factors | Women | Children

The Dental Consequences of Periodontal Disease

75% of all adult tooth loss is due to periodontal disease. When your gums and bone are damaged by periodontal infection, there is less support for your teeth. As this support disappears, your teeth first become loose and then can be lost.

The loss of teeth contributes to facial wrinkles. The preservation of existing facial structures is dependent on preserving dentition and supporting bone.

When your dentist recommends periodontal treatment, it is important to get started right away.

Natural Teeth Must Be Replaced

If the periodontal inflammation continues, you can start to lose your teeth, one at a time. These lost teeth will have to be replaced with dental work, such as:

  • Bridges
  • Dental implants
  • Partial dentures
  • Full dentures

Dentures

If tooth loss continues, it can cause you to need dentures. Many patients do not understand the full consequences of wearing dentures. There can be many problems with dentures including:

  1. Inability to eat certain foods.
  2. Inability to feel and taste foods.
  3. Lisping or clacking when speaking.
  4. Bad breath or smell.
  5. Constant pain or discomfort.
  6. Unnatural looking teeth.
  7. Self-consciousness and embarrassment.
  8. Looking old.
  9. Having to take your dentures out at night for soaking.
  10. Your spouse seeing you without teeth at night.

The Good News

In most cases the progress of periodontal infection can be stopped with prompt treatment. The gums and bone around your teeth can then be saved from further damage.

Medical Consequences of Periodontal Disease

(The American Academy of Periodontology) A new analysis of recent research has revealed gum disease may represent a far more serious threat to the health of millions of Americans than previously realized. These studies found that periodontal (gum) infection may contribute to the development of heart disease, the nation's number one cause of death, increase the risk of premature, underweight births, and pose a serious threat to people whose health is already compromised due to diabetes and respiratory diseases.

"People think of gum disease in terms of their teeth, but they don't think about the fact that gum disease is a serious infection that can release bacteria into the bloodstream"

Dr. Robert Genco, editor Journal of Periodontology "Periodontal disease is characterized by inflammation and bacterial infections of the gums surrounding the teeth. The bacteria that area associated with periodontal disease can travel into the bloodstream to other parts of the body, and that puts health at risk," said Dr. Genco. "People think of gum disease in terms of their teeth, but they don't think about the fact that gum disease is a serious infection that can release bacteria into the bloodstream. The end result could mean additional health risks for people whose health is already affected by other diseases or lead to serious complications like heart disease."

Periodontal disease can also lead to inflammation. This inflammatory bacteria enters your bloodstream and then travels throughout your body. It can affect other parts of your body and has been linked with a number of medical conditions. It is important to treat periodontal disease as quickly as possible to avoid the release of bacteria and inflammation into your bloodstream.

Tobacco & Gum Disease

As you already know, tobacco use can cause cancer, and increase your risk for heart disease but you might not know that it is the single largest risk factor for developing periodontal disease. Research shows that smokers are three times more likely to lose teeth due to periodontal diseases than nonsmokers. These odds get even worse if you are a smoker and are genetically sensitive to periodontal disease.

Smokeless tobacco users are more likely to experience gum and bone recession leading to tooth loss. Even more devastating is the fact that your chances of developing oral cancer increases with smokeless tobacco use.

In addition to that, periodontal therapy is less effective in smokers. Pockets tend to reform more easily after treatment, and regenerative therapy (bone and gum grafts) is not as predictable in smokers. Talk to Dr. Bernard about the relationship between your periodontal problems and smoking.

Quitting takes commitment - and it is usually easier if you have help. To begin a tobacco-cessation program, talk to your physician.

Heart Disease & Heart Attack

Growing evidence suggests infection, including periodontal disease, plays a role in heart disease. It has recently been confirmed that people with a bacterial strain common in periodontal disease, suffer more heart attacks. This may be due to blood clot formation. A Boston study demonstrated that men with periodontal disease had twice the death rate from heart disease. Another study documented that heart disease was 25% more common in those who had gum disease. But the risk was especially great for men under the age of 50 with periodontal disease. They had about a 75% greater risk of heart trouble.These studies and others suggest that bad gums could be as strong a risk factor for heart attacks as smoking, which is blamed for about 40,000 heart-related deaths a year.

Stroke

Studies have also shown that people with periodontal disease are 3 times more likely to suffer a stroke.

Pre-Term Childbirth

Women with periodontal disease are 7-8 times more likely to give birth prematurely to a low birth-weight baby.

Diabetes

If you are diabetic, you know the importance of keeping your disease under control but do you know that periodontal disease, like any infection, can make it more difficult for you to stabilize your diabetes? The two diseases play off each other. If your diabetes is not under control you are at greater risk for periodontal disease and on the other hand, if you have active periodontal disease it is more difficult to control your diabetes. Periodontal infection can raise blood sugar in diabetic patients. Periodontal treatment often results in a reduced need for insulin.

In addition to an increased risk for periodontal disease, diabetics, especially uncontrolled diabetics, may experience one or more of the following:

  • Delayed healing
  • Decreased flow of saliva (dry mouth)
  • Burning sensation in mouth or tongue
  • Increased chance of tooth decay


When you visit the physician that helps you manage your diabetes it is very important to inform him or her that you have another chronic problem-periodontal disease. Dr. Bernard is always happy to work with your physician to coordinate treatments. It is important to remember, if your diabetes is well-controlled, your periodontal treatment will be similar to nondiabetic patients. You may wish to schedule your appointment early in the morning, after you have eaten a normal breakfast, in order to stabilize and prevent a severe or sudden drop in your blood sugar levels.

Respiratory Disease

Periodontal infection in the mouth can be breathed in and increase the severity of such respiratory diseases as pneumonia, bronchitis and emphysema.

Periodontal Infection is a Medical Problem

Periodontal disease is no longer thought to be just a dental problem. Researchers are finding many correlations between periodontal infection and serious medical problems.

Your Infection Can Be Transmitted

Research using DNA testing has found that 80% of all periodontal disease comes from a parent or spouse. Patients with a periodontal disease can pass their infection along to their loved ones.

Some Patients are At Higher Risk

Patients in certain higher risk categories (see below) should pay particular attention to any signs of periodontal disease.

Those patients having a personal or family history of:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Premature childbirth
  • Diabetes
  • Respiratory diseases

Those patients having higher risk lifestyles, including:

  • Chronic stress
  • Smoker
  • Sedentary and overweight
  • Frequent colds, flu, etc.

Higher Risk Patients

If you have been told you have periodontal infection (or some of its symptoms) it is vital that you seek evaluation and treatment.

Other Risk Factors

Although plaque causes periodontal diseases, many factors can influence your susceptibility.

Tobacco users are more likely to develop severe periodontal disease and loose teeth. Smoking also affects healing and diminishes the body's ability to regrow bone and gum.

Pregnancy and hormonal changes can place the body more at risk for periodontal disease, and pre-existing periodontal diseases can become more severe. Click on Women and Periodontal Disease.

Stress can make it more difficult for the body to fight infections including periodontal disease.

Medications such as oral contraceptives, antidepressants, hormones and certain heart drugs (Calcium channel blockers) can have adverse effects on the gum and bone.

Blood pressure pills such as PROCARDIA cause gum swelling as a side effect. Close communication between your MD and Dr. Bernard can help overcome these problems.

Clenching or grinding your teeth These habits can transfer excessive stress through the teeth to the bone and can speed up the rate at which tissues are destroyed.

Diabetes - Periodontal diseases can be more severe in uncontrolled diabetics. In addition, untreated periodontal disease can make it harder for diabetics to keep their diabetes under control.

Poor Nutrition - A diet deficient in important nutrients can make more difficult to fight off infection.

Systemic diseases that interferes with the body's immune system may worsen the condition of the gums and untreated periodontal disease may worsen systemic disease.

Genetic Susceptibility - A gene has been identified that controls your susceptibility to plaque.

Your likelihood of developing periodontal diseases increases with the number of risk factors you have. It is, therefore, in your best interest to control as many of them as possible.

Women & Periodontal Disease

As a woman, you know that your health care needs are unique. During puberty, menopause and times when you have special health needs such as menstruation or pregnancy, your body experiences hormonal changes. These changes can affect many of the tissues of your body, including your gums, making you more susceptible to gum disease.

Puberty

During puberty, an increased level of sex hormones causes increased blood circulation to the gums. This may lead to an overreaction to any irritation such as bacteria or plaque. During these times good homecare and frequent professional cleanings are especially important. If not treated, the bone and tissue surrounding the teeth can be damaged.

Menstruation

Gum irritation can be much more common during menstruation due to fluctuations in hormone levels. It generally occurs just before a woman's period and can be counteracted by proper oral hygiene especially during the hormonal fluctuations.

Pregnancy

There is an old wive's tale that said "A tooth lost for every child." While this may seem farfetched, it is actually loosely based on fact. Your gums are affected by pregnancy. Most commonly women experience increased gum irritation beginning in the second or third month that increases in severity through the eighth month. This condition, called "pregnancy gingivitis," is marked by increased swelling and bleeding of the gums in response even to a very small amount of plaque or calculus. This again is caused by an increased level of certain hormones.

It is very important to make your gums and bone as healthy as possible before you become pregnant. This will decrease the likelihood that you will have a problem during the pregnancy. If you have a gum problem and become pregnant, the disease process is usually accelerated, resulting in bone and gum loss. If you are thinking about getting pregnant, it may be a good idea to have Dr. Bernard give you a preventive checkup. When you become pregnant, you may want to increase the frequency of your maintenance appointments to reduce the chance of periodontal problems. If tenderness, bleeding or swelling occurs at any time during your pregnancy, talk to Dr. Bernard as soon as possible.

Low Birth Weight Babies

Recently it has been discovered that pregnant women with severe gum and bone disease are seven times more likely to deliver low birth weight babies. It therefore is important for your baby's health as well as your own, to resolve your periodontal problem if you are pregnant or are thinking about becoming pregnant.

Oral Contraceptives

If you are taking any oral contraceptives (birth control pills), you may experience the same problems with your gums that pregnant women do. Because of hormonal changes your gums may overreact to irritants such as plaque and calculus. If you notice bleeding or swollen gums, contact our office.

Menopause

Certain hormonal supplements such as progesterone may increase your gums response to local irritants, such as plaque and calculus, causing them to bleed, turn red and swell. If you are taking estrogen supplements, these should have no effect on your oral health or may actually improve your ability to maintain oral health.

Caring for your Children's Teeth and Gums

Most of us think about periodontal disease as being a disease of adults and, in fact, it is the major cause of tooth loss in adults. But many school age children experience gingivitis, the earliest form of gum disease. This is not just an adult problem, although it tends to become more advanced with age. That is because periodontal disease is a progressive condition that happens over time, not overnight.

As a parent, there are basic preventive steps you can take to ensure that your child enjoys a lifetime of good oral health. Your commitment to the establishment of good oral habits in your child is the best insurance for his or her oral health as an adult.

Warning Signs of Gum Disease In Your Child

None of these warning signs are normal conditions for your children. If you note any of these signs, please have Dr. Bernard evaluate your child.

Gum Disease In Your Child

  • Bleeding - when your child brushed his teeth, there is blood on the toothbrush or in the sink.
  • Puffiness - your child's gums are swollen and/or red.
  • Recession - you notice that your child's gums are receding away from his teeth, sometimes exposing roots.
  • Bad Breath - your child has bad breath, and brushing and flossing does not improve the problem.

Hormonal Changes

As your child go through puberty, hormonal changes can put him or her at greater risk for getting gum disease. Increases in certain hormones cause the body to overreact to the bacteria. During this period it is important that your child practice good oral hygiene and continue regular dental checkups.

Preventive Care

The most important preventive step against gum disease in your child is your commitment to his or her establishing good oral health habits. Gum disease is preventable. If your child currently has poor oral health habits, work with him to change them now. It is much easier to modify these habits in a child than in an adult.