The Far-Reaching Effects of Gum Disease

  • Posted on: Sep 20 2012

Think gum disease affects only your oral health? Think again! While we typically associate the condition only with its devastating impact on our gums and teeth, did you know that periodontal disease can actually have far-reaching health implications as well? Here’s a brief introduction.

Gum disease is most often caused by bacterial plaque that builds up on the teeth over time. This sticky, colorless film stimulates an inflammatory response, causing the body to essentially attack itself. In the process, the tissues and bone that support the teeth are gradually destroyed. But, it doesn’t end there! Gum disease has also been shown to contribute to several serious health conditions.

These include:

  • Respiratory Problems: British newspaper, The Telegraph, reports on a recent Yale study that looks at a link between poor oral hygiene and serious respiratory problems. According to the paper, “Poor oral health has been associated with respiratory diseases for a number of years, as bacterial chest infections are thought to be caused by breathing in fine droplets from the throat and mouth into the lungs.”
  • Cancer: While a link between gum disease and cancer may sound far-fetched, recent evidence confirms the connection. According to a report published in The Lancet Oncology, men with a history of gum disease were as much as 14% more likely to develop cancer than those with a healthy gum history. What’s more, men with periodontal disease were 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer and 30% more likely to develop blood cancers.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: According to a study published in the Journal of Periodontology, researchers have found a strong link between rheumatoid arthritis and gum disease. In fact, according to the report, patients with rheumatoid arthritis were eight times more likely to have periodontal disease than those without the joint condition. And, while the study doesn’t attribute RA to oral hygiene alone, it sheds some interesting light on the far-reaching effects of systemic inflammatory disorders.

Gum Disease Treatment

While gum disease can usually be avoided with good oral hygiene and regular dental visits, in its advanced stages, patients will require a dental intervention. In many cases, patients will benefit from a deep cleaning procedure known as “scaling and root planing.” Also known as “periodontal therapy,” this procedure works to remove plaque and tartar that have accumulated below the gum line.

During the first part of the procedure, an instrument called a scaler is used to clean out pockets of plaque and tartar that lie beneath the gums. This is followed by a planing procedure, where the rough tooth surface is smoothed out to promote better healing and gum adherence. Very often, we will also apply antibiotics to help prevent bacterial growth.

In more advanced cases, patients may require periodontal surgery.  Aimed at preventing further damage and enhancing a patient’s smile, here are four of the most common periodontal procedures today:

  • Regeneration. Using tissue-stimulating protein, grafts and other techniques, a regenerative procedure works to restore bone and tissue that has been lost to gum disease.
  • Pocket Depth Reduction. As it destroys supporting tissue and bone, gum disease will often cause “pockets” around the teeth.  A pocket depth reduction procedure aims to remove harmful bacteria from these pockets and secure gum tissue back in place.
  • Soft Tissue Grafts. Gum recession — a common result of periodontal disease — can often be combated with a soft tissue graft procedure.  Borrowing tissue from the palate or a donor, your periodontist works to cover exposed tooth roots.
  • Crown Lengthening. Working to promote better overall periodontal health, a crown lengthening procedure is also used to combat the appearance of a “gummy smile.”

What’s important to remember is that gum disease is a progressive condition. Caught early, patients can usually expect a full recovery. Left untreated, the condition can lead to serious complications, not the least of which is permanent tooth loss.

Schedule an Appointment Today

Nip gum disease in the bud – contact us today.  With nine locations and twelve affiliate locations throughout the New York metropolitan area, each of our offices has a periodontist on staff. Schedule your appointment in the Bronx, South Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Midtown Manhattan, Yonkers, Farmingville, Hauppauge, Port Jefferson Station or Ronkonkoma.

Posted in: Dental Bites