My patients know that I am a huge advocate of preventative dentistry, emphasizing proper oral hygiene through brushing and flossing and timely treatment of problems. Preventative dentistry techniques keep the mouth healthy. A healthy mouth provides a bright and beautiful smile, fresh breath, and prevents other medical problems throughout the body. When proper oral hygiene is ignored, bacteria tends to build up around the teeth and gums. This bacteria is the cause of periodontal disease.
An astounding 75 percent of adults over the age of 35 have some degree of periodontal disease. Left unchecked, periodontal disease can cause serious damage to bone and tissues in the mouth and affect conditions elsewhere in the body. In fact, there is ongoing research linking periodontal disease with very serious medical problems. Some of these potential ailments include:
- Increase in the risk of Cardiovascular Disease
- Increase in the risk for strokes
- Respiratory problems
- Problem pregnancies
Bacteria stored in the plaque in your mouth can very easily enter the bloodstream, which has been know to trigger an increase in certain protective materials which attach to vessels in the heart. This build up of plaque and fatty proteins thickens coronary arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis. This inflammation is the major cause of the development of cardiovascular disease and increases the risk of having a stroke.
Researchers have found that a person with a large amount of bacteria, due to improper oral hygiene, will inhale these germs into the respiratory tracts. An increase in bacteria in the respiratory system causes infections and worsens existing respiratory conditions, such as pneumonia.
Current research has found a link between periodontal disease and pre-term births. Mothers with periodontal disease have been found to be much more likely to give birth to a pre-mature or low birth weight baby. While this research is new, periodontal disease seems to increase certain biological fluids which induce labor, leading to pre-term births.
Periodontal disease has been known to be more prevalent in those who suffer from diabetes. New research is now finding that periodontal disease may, in fact, play a role in the development of diabetes. While victims of diabetes have a hard time fighting the infections caused by the bacteria associated with periodontal disease, conversely, these infections can bring about reactionary processes that lead to the onset of type 2 diabetes in healthy individuals.
While periodontal disease is found in a large majority of adults, it is important for people of all ages to be aware of the damage this disease can cause to the mouth and the rest of the body. It is imperative that proper oral hygiene is practiced at home and regular trips to your dentist’s office are scheduled throughout the year.
Daniell Mishaan, D.M.D. is a dentist in the Garment District in midtown Manhattan. He serves patients from all over New York City.