The Importance of Healthy Gums

Ever wonder why dentists and dental hygienists make such a big deal about your gums?  The reason is because healthy gums are vital to a healthy life!

The mouth is the gateway to the body, and what happens in your gums is not isolated to the gums.  Not only does the health of your gums have a huge impact on the health of your mouth overall.  It can affect other important systems in your body.

A recent study showed that flossing increases the average life span by up to six years!  This is mainly because it prevents gum disease, and therefore, also prevents the negative effects of gum disease on the rest of your body.

Healthy Gums = Healthy Mouth

You cannot have a healthy mouth without healthy gums.  The attachment of the gums to the teeth is what keeps your teeth in your mouth!  It enables your teeth to withstand chewing forces without getting loose and falling out.

When gums become unhealthy, the first stage is gingivitis, which literally means inflammation of the gums.  This primary cause of this inflammation is always plaque, the soft buildup of bacteria, food debris and dead cells that collects on teeth between brushings. The bacteria in plaque product toxins that irritate the gum tissue, and the body’s response to that irritation is inflammation.  The gums swell, turn red, and bleed very easily.

There are certain things that can aggravate gingivitis: hormone surges (like puberty and pregnancy), mouth breathing, food catching between the teeth, and rough edges of dental work.

If your gums bleed with normal brushing and flossing, that means you have gingivitis.

Gingivitis is easy to treat.  It will involve one or more professional teeth cleanings and good home care.  Your dental hygienist will give you specific instructions on how to best clean your teeth at home between your teeth cleanings.

When gingivitis is not treated, it typically gets worse and progresses into periodontal disease.  Periodontal disease occurs when the toxins and inflammation of gingivitis begin to affect the jaw bone around the teeth.  The bone begins to pull away from the tooth in an area of chronic inflammation, causing a loss of attachment.

Without treatment, periodontal disease can rapidly progress to a severe case requiring expensive surgical treatment and even tooth loss.

Heart Disease

Scientists have been studying the link between gum disease and heart disease for decades.  They consistently show a significant link between the two.  Patients with gum disease are more likely to suffer from heart attacks and strokes than those without.  The plaque buildup on your teeth is closely related to and a good predictor of plaque buildup in your arteries.

Of course, heart disease has many other causes, such as genetic factors, smoking, obesity, etc . . . You may not be able to control certain risk factors, like a genetic predisposition.  What you need to know is that gum disease worsens your risk for heart disease.  So if you are already at risk for heart disease, you should take action to reduce any of the other risk factors that you do have control over.

You can control the risk factor of gum disease by keeping a consistent schedule with our dental hygienist for professional teeth cleanings.  Also, make sure to stick with a great oral hygiene regimen at home.

Diabetes

Diabetes affects millions of Americans of all ages and ethnicities.  This disease is so important to dentists because not only does diabetes make gum disease worse, gum disease makes diabetes worse!  It is a two-way street.

Diabetes causes a shrinking of blood vessels.  This loss of blood supply is how severe uncontrolled diabetes leads to blindness or the need to amputate toes.

Diabetes also affects the blood vessels in the gums.  Because the blood brings important nourishment and healing cells to areas of disease, the lack of blood flow means diseases can get worse faster.  A diabetic’s body does not respond to problems the same way a healthy person’s body does.  Diabetes makes gum disease get worse faster.

Studies also show that the inflammation associated with chronic gum disease causes changes in blood sugar levels.

If you are diabetic, you need more frequent professional teeth cleanings and even more diligent oral hygiene at home!

Pulmonary Diseases

Bacteria in the mouth have a quick pathway to the lungs.  COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is associated with poor oral health, and periodontal disease is associated with certain types of pneumonia.

Keeping your mouth healthy can help keep your lungs healthy!

Cancer

The link between oral health and cancer is a relatively new one.  It has been well established that chronic infections in the mouth are connected to oral cancers.  This means people with multiple untreated cavities, abscesses, and gum disease are more likely to get oral cancer.

A new study from Helsinki shows a link between a specific type of bacteria present in gum disease and multiple types of cancer, not just oral cancer!  The study shows that oral health is an important factor in cancer prevention.

How Can You Keep Your Gums Healthy?

Call your nearest Premier Dental location today to schedule a visit with one of our wonderful dental hygienists!  Each one is highly trained in recognizing risk factors for gum disease and helping you take charge of your oral health.