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FAQs - Gum disease and your general health

Our mouths are full of bacteria. These bacteria, along with mucus and other particles, constantly form a sticky, colourless "plaque" on teeth. Brushing and flossing help get rid of plaque.  Plaque that is not removed can harden and form "tartar" that brushing doesn't clean.  Only a professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar.

Gum disease is a serious dental problem. Gum disease has also been linked to heart disease and strokes.   In some studies, researchers have observed that people with gum disease (when compared to people without gum disease) were more likely to develop heart disease or have difficulty controlling blood sugar.  Other studies showed that women with gum disease were more likely than those with healthy gums to deliver preterm, low birth weight babies.  But so far, it is not been determined whether gum disease is the cause of these conditions.

There may be other reasons why people with gum disease sometimes develop additional health problems.  For example, something else may be causing both the gum disease and other conditions, or it could be coincidence that gum disease and other health problems are present together.

More research is needed to clarify whether gum disease actually causes health problems beyond the mouth, and whether treating gum disease can keep other health conditions from developing.

In the meantime, it’s a fact that controlling gum disease can save your teeth – a very good reason to take care of your teeth and gums.

Learn how you can prevent gum disease and protect your overall health by visiting one of our qualified Oral Hygienists today.

The longer plaque and tartar are on teeth, the more harmful they become. The bacteria cause inflammation of the gums that is called "gingivitis."  In gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen and can bleed easily.  Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that can usually be reversed with daily brushing and flossing, and regular cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist. This form of gum disease does not include any loss of bone and tissue that hold teeth in place.

When gingivitis is not treated, it can advance to "periodontitis" (which means "inflammation around the tooth.")  In periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces (called "pockets") that become infected. The body's immune system fights the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line. Bacterial toxins and the body's natural response to infection start to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. If not treated, the bones, gums, and tissue that support the teeth are destroyed.  The teeth may eventually become loose and have to be removed.

 

  • Smoking.  Need another reason to quit smoking?  Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors associated with the development of gum disease.  Additionally, smoking can lower the chances for successful treatment.
  • Hormonal changes in girls/women.  These changes can make gums more sensitive and make it easier for gingivitis to develop.
  • Diabetes.  People with diabetes are at higher risk for developing infections, including gum disease.
  • Medications.  There are hundreds of prescription and over the counter medications that can reduce the flow of saliva, which has a protective effect on the mouth.  Without enough saliva, the mouth is vulnerable to infections such as gum disease.  And some medications can cause abnormal overgrowth of the gum tissue; this can make it difficult to keep gums clean.
  • Illnesses.  Diseases like cancer or AIDS and their treatments can also negatively affect the health of gums.
  • Genetic susceptibility.  Some people are more prone to severe gum disease than others.

Symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Bad breath that won't go away
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Tender or bleeding gums
  • Painful chewing
  • Loose teeth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Receding gums or longer appearing teeth

 

Tobacco (cigarettes, pipes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and snuff) is the most common cause of oral cancer.  Combining tobacco use with heavy drinking can also foster the development of oral cancer.  Bad hygiene, prolonged irritation of the oral cavity, and extended exposure to strong sunlight on the lips are among other causes of the disease.  Many dentists believe vitamins A and E can help prevent the acquisition of oral cancer

Early symptoms of oral cancer include: a sore on the lip, in the mouth, or in the throat that does not heal; a lump on the lip, in the mouth, or in the throat; a red or white patch found anywhere in the mouth; unusual pain or bleeding in the mouth; swelling of the mouth; and any difficulty or discomfort felt in chewing or swallowing.

Many insurance companies cover the cost of sealants for children. Check with your dental insurance carrier to determine if sealants are covered under your plan