There is growing evidence that the presence of periodontal (gum) disease can be linked to the incidence of coronary heart disease. Gums infected with periodontal disease are toxic reservoirs of disease-causing bacteria. The bacteria hide in pockets next to the teeth, where the gums have pulled away from the tooth surface. When gums are this infected, they frequently bleed.
Bleeding gums, common in severe gum disease, provide an open doorway for plaque bacteria to enter the bloodstream. This bacteria, Streptococcus sanguis, can cause blood clots that block arteries and trigger heart attacks. Studies have shown that plaque bacteria entering the bloodstream through infected gums might also cause a potentially fatal heart disease called infective/bacterial endocarditis. This is a bacterial infection that causes the sac around the heart to become inflamed.
The lesson to be learned? Brush, floss, and see your dentist regularly. Because we now know that good oral health can prevent more than just gum disease.
Individuals suffering from diabetes, especially uncontrolled diabetics, have a higher risk of developing bacterial infections of the mouth. These infections may impair your ability to process insulin, resulting in greater difficulty with controlling your diabetes. Periodontal diseases will be more severe than those of a non-diabetic and treatment more difficult. However, well-controlled diabetics have a lower incidence of cavities.
Steps to prevent periodontal disease include daily brushing and flossing to remove plaque from your teeth and gums, regular dental visits for professional cleaning and regular periodontal evaluation. Your health professional must also be told of your history and the current status of your condition. And finally, you can help resist periodontal infection by maintaining control of your blood sugar levels.
Women and Periodontal Health
Throughout a woman’s life, hormonal changes affect tissue throughout the body. Fluctuations in levels occur during puberty, pregnancy and menopause. At these times, the chance of periodontal disease may increase, requiring special care of your oral health. Higher levels of hormones increase gum sensitivity and lead to greater irritations from plaque and food particles. The gums can become swollen, turn red and feel tender. Similar symptoms occasionally appear several days before menstruation. There can be bleeding of the gums, bright red swelling between the teeth and gum, or sores on the inside of the cheek. The symptoms clear up once the period has started. As the amount of sex hormones decrease, so do these problems.
Periodontal health should be part of your prenatal care. Any infections during pregnancy, including periodontal infections, can place a baby’s health at risk.
Swelling, bleeding and tenderness of the gums may also occur when you are taking oral contraceptives, which are synthetic hormones. You must mention any prescriptions you are taking, including oral contraceptives, prior to medical or dental treatment. This will help eliminate risk of drug interactions, such as antibiotics with oral contraceptives – where the effectiveness of the contraceptive can be lessened.
Changes in the look and feel of your mouth may occur if you are menopausal or post-menopausal. They include feeling pain and burning in your gum tissue and salty, peppery or sour tastes. Careful oral hygiene at home and professional cleaning may relieve these symptoms. There are also saliva substitutes to treat the effects of “dry mouth.”