Gum Disease and Its Impact on Your Overall Health

Good oral health is marked by a shiny set of pearly white teeth for many. However, for the skilled dentists at Gentry Dentistry of Suwanee, it’s much bigger than that. After all, the prettiest teeth in the world won’t mean a thing if you don’t have a strong foundation. Strong and healthy gums are at the “root” of good oral health, and if you don’t take the steps necessary to protect them, you could wind up with some serious health issues that extend beyond gum disease. Fortunately, there are several easy steps you can start taking today to safeguard your gums and overall health. First, it’s crucial to establish what gum disease is and the many reasons why gum health is so essential…

What is Gum Disease

Also known as periodontitis, gum disease is an infection in the soft tissue surrounding your teeth. It is often caused by plaque buildup – a sticky, bacteria-filled film on the teeth. If left untreated, it could lead to chronic bad breath, receding gum lines, destruction of the bone that supports your teeth, loose teeth, loss of teeth, and some serious – and potentially deadly – health issues that extend beyond your mouth.  

The Link Between Gum Disease and Systemic Health

Your gums are made up of firm, pink tissue filled with blood vessels. The fact that they’re so jam-packed with blood vessels means that any bacteria related to gum disease can get into your bloodstream easily, leading to a wealth of other health concerns. Included among them are:

  • Heart Health – According to Harvard University, people with gum disease have two to three times the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular event. When one has gum disease, the body sends a volley of immune cells to attack the bacteria – which can cause acute inflammation in the body – in turn leading to health issues like atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque in the arteries surrounding the heart. You also run the risk of developing endocarditis - an infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers or valves when bacteria from gum disease spreads through your bloodstream and attaches to your heart.
  • Diabetes – While periodontitis doesn’t cause diabetes, it can work in reverse – and often does. High blood sugar levels make patients with diabetes more prone to gum disease. At the same time, people with diabetes and gum disease may experience higher A1C levels since periodontitis makes it difficult to control sugar levels.
  • Respiratory Health – The medical experts at Mayo Clinic believe that the bacteria that causes periodontitis can be aspirated into the lungs, potentially causing pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. At the same time, if you already have COPD or asthma, gum disease can worsen chronic lung inflammation.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis – A study by the Johns Hopkins University Division of Rheumatology illustrates that the same bacteria known to cause periodontitis can trigger an inflammatory autoimmune response in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). For patients with RA, gum disease may make their condition worse.
  • Pregnancy Complications – Pregnant women should exercise extra care when dealing with gum disease. An early stage of gum disease known as gingivitis is common in pregnant women – to the tune of 60-75% - mainly due to hormonal changes and increased blood flow to the mucous membranes in the body. If left untreated, they may run the risk of delivering their baby preterm and with a low birth weight.  

Warning Signs to Watch For

If you’re concerned that you might have periodontal disease, be on the lookout for:

  • Gingivitis – swollen, red, or tender gums
  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Pus between the teeth and gums
  • Bad breath
  • Changes in the color of your gums
  • Receding gums
  • Buildup of hard dark yellow or brown deposits along the gum line
  • Loose teeth or teeth that are shifting apart
  • Changes in the way dental appliances – like dentures – fit

Prevention and Treatment

To prevent any of these adverse health conditions from happening as a result of gum disease, it’s vital that you schedule regular checkups and professional dental cleanings with your dentist twice a year while employing an effective oral hygiene regimen at home every day. Brush two to three times and floss once a day. You should also be aware that specific lifestyle changes – like taking up smoking – may increase your risk of periodontal disease. If you discover that you have gingivitis or periodontitis during a regular checkup, chances are your dentist will treat it in any number of ways. Included among them are scaling, root planing, topical or oral antibiotics, or – in more severe cases – pocket reduction surgery, soft tissue grafts, bone grafting, or guided tissue regeneration. It doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? That’s why it’s best to prevent gum disease altogether with healthy lifestyle practices and the pursuit of good oral health.

If you need to schedule a dental checkup for gum health, Gentry Dentistry of Suwanee is accepting new patients! We are your go-to source for Suwanee dental care – cosmetic, preventative, and restorative. Call our front desk to make an appointment at 770-945-5850. Our office is located at 3585 Lawrenceville-Suwanee Rd, Suite #101-A in Suwanee, and our hours are Monday through Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and select Fridays, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. We look forward to adding you to our list of smiling patients!


Leave your worries at the door and enjoy a healthier smile


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