Mind Your Mouth

Healthy teeth mean more than a great smile. Research has shown oral health may affect or contribute to a variety of diseases and conditions, including heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. These findings have helped elevate the importance and impact of good oral hygiene.

“It’s a game changer,” says Dr. Mike Hinkle of Utica Dental. “Today’s consumer is more informed and beginning to take seriously the connection between their oral health and their overall health.”

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, research shows an association between periodontal diseases and other chronic inflammatory conditions such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. Some evidence suggests people with gum disease are almost twice as likely to have coronary artery disease.

There is also risk of endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart. Gum disease and dental procedures that cut your gums may allow bacteria to enter your blood stream. If you have a weak immune system or a damaged heart valve, this can lead to an infection in other parts of the body.

In addition, gum disease has been linked to premature and low birth weight in babies, while tooth loss before age 35 may be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. However, individuals also need to consider other factors.

“Many people have the false belief that it’s normal for your gums to bleed; it’s not,” says Hinkle. “Bleeding gums or sensitivity when eating or drinking hot or cold items are warning signs.”

He encourages everyone to pay attention to the health of the gums, teeth and mouth. Periodontal disease begins as gingivitis and then progresses, if unchecked, to periodontitis, the inflammation and infection of the ligaments and bones that support the teeth.

“Look at your gum tissue, it should be pale pink, almost a coral or salmon color. Watch for color changes, as disease progresses the gums will be red and puffy. If they are purple or bluish, the tissue is dying,” he says. “Also, if you’re constantly fighting bad breath, there’s a good chance you could have periodontal disease.”

Fortunately, if you find that many of these symptoms apply to you, there is hope. The dental industry has made remarkable advancements in multiple service areas including the treatment of gum disease. Patients now have the option of the PerioLase MVP-7, featuring the Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure (LANAP) – the only laser-assisted procedure certified by the FDA for the treatment of periodontitis. With LANAP there is less patient discomfort, a reduced recovery time and longer, lasting results.

While there are many new technologies to help treat gum disease and other oral health problems, prevention is still key. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing your teeth twice a day with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste and to clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner.

“We’ve always known that a little prevention goes a long way, but we used to think of it in terms of avoiding cavities and things like that,” says periodontist Sally Cram, DDS, a spokeswoman for the ADA to WebMD. “Now it seems that by using your toothbrush and your floss, you might also be preventing much more serious health problems down the road.”

Hinkle adds that there are several tools available to support good dental hygiene including water picks, toothpicks and rinse aids. He advises individuals to seek a qualified dentist and establish routine oral care.

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