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What is Periodontal Disease?

Nearly half of the people over age 30 in the U.S. have periodontal disease according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). It occurs more frequently in men than women, is more likely to occur in current smokers and is most prevalent in Mexican-Americans. In those 65 and older, the rate increases to over 70 percent. Men with this gum disease are 49 percent more likely to develop kidney cancer, 54 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer and 30 percent more likely to develop blood cancers according to the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP).

The common factor in all of these diseases is inflammation, which is the body’s response to insulin.

According to the AAP, people with diabetes are more likely to develop periodontal disease, probably because they are more susceptible to contracting infections. Those who don’t have their diabetes under control are especially at risk. Severe periodontal disease can lead to increased blood sugar levels. These periods of time when the body functions with a high blood sugar level put people with diabetes at increased risk for diabetic complications.

While no cause and effect relationship has been proven between periodontal disease and heart disease, scientists believe that inflammation caused by periodontal disease may be responsible for an association between the two. In addition, periodontal disease can also cause existing heart conditions to worsen.

Additional studies have pointed to a relationship between periodontal disease and stroke. In one study, people diagnosed with acute cerebrovascular ischemia (stroke) were more likely to have a periodontal infection than those who did not have an infection.

The good news is that general dentist, dental hygienist or a periodontist can perform a comprehensive periodontal evaluation at your regular yearly dental check-up. The evaluation is relatively painless and non-invasive. It consists of examining each tooth above and below the gum line. An instrument called a ‘periodontal probe’ is passed gently along the side of the tooth beyond the gum line. The probe will stop at about the level of the bone attachment to the tooth. It allows the dental professional to measure the distance from the gum line to the bone level, feel the texture of the tooth (rough or smooth) and see if the gum bleeds when the probing is done. Bleeding on probing is a good indicator of inflammation in the gums. Rough texture of the root indicates dental plaque hardened on the tooth that makes it impossible to clean the root surface effectively. Probing depth greater than 3-4 mm indicates an area that cannot be predictably cleaned with home care instrumentation.

The warning signs of gum disease include the following:

Red, swollen or tender gums or other pain in your mouth

Bleeding while brushing, flossing or eating hard food

Gums that are receding or pulling away from the teeth, causing the teeth to look longer than before

Loose or separating teeth

Pus between your gums and teeth

Sores in your mouth

Persistent bad breath

A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite

A change in the fit of partial dentures

Periodontal disease is known as a silent disease and the onset of the disease may be present without the symptoms. Therefore, it is very important to have a yearly exam that allows your dental professional check for any warning signs that you may not notice, but may be present. As more evidence unfolds indicating the association between periodontal disease and an individual’s well-being, it becomes more important for each of us to establish a regimen of evaluation and care.

Schenck Family Dentistry knows how important oral is. Schedule your appointment today and we will help any answer any questions you may have.