We are learning there are strong connections between the health of the mouth and the rest of the body. Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is one example of an oral health problem that can affect the whole body.
Without regular dental checkups, you may not even know you have periodontal disease, but it could be affecting your overall health. Periodontal disease is often considered a painless condition until it gets bad. Then, it becomes painful, damaging, and can result in tooth loss.
Why should you care? Because chances are you have it. The CDC reports that nearly half of all US adults age 30 or older have some form of periodontal disease, and 70% of those 65 or older have it.
Periodontal disease has been linked to health issues like diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, respiratory complications, and cancer.
If you’re diabetic, you are more susceptible to periodontal disease. With heart disease, the inflammation in your mouth is a potential cause of inflammation elsewhere. This inflammation increases the risk of a blockage-related emergency such as a heart attack or stroke by two-to-three times.
Visit your dentist – Regular visits to the dentist are the best way to prevent and/or identify periodontal disease. The routine exams will reveal if you’re are showing signs of gingivitis. Gingivitis is an early form of periodontal disease. Your dental care team will also help by cleaning your teeth and gums, effectively removing the plaque that causes gum disease in the first place.
Consider the symptoms – Do your gums bleed after brushing your teeth or feel tender or puffy? Are your gums pulling away from your teeth? Do you have pain when chewing? Are you experiencing bad breath? You may have periodontal disease.
Pay attention to any changes in your mouth, like sudden pain when eating or a newly discovered loose tooth. It will help you gauge the state of your oral health. If you notice one or more of these symptoms persisting, it’s time to see your dentist.
Know your habits – People who don’t regularly brush and floss, those who smoke or chew tobacco, women who are pregnant, those on certain medications, and many who have conditions like those mentioned above are at risk for periodontal disease.
Take care of your mouth – Regular visits to the dentist, a proper oral care routine, and paying attention to your body are all that is required of you. You can keep periodontal disease at bay with a small amount of work, and your body will thank you for it.