Well, here we are again. I hope you are enjoying our little trip down medical lane as we are discussing how gum disease can affect other parts and other systems in the human body. As you may recall, we have been discussing how brushing your teeth on a daily basis, even multiple times a day, may not protect you from gum disease and the damage caused by it. We talked about the more than 65 million Americans who suffer from some form or stage of periodontal disease and how, if left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss. We talked about how your gums are under attack every time you eat or drink anything. Today, we are going to talk about some of the main causes of periodontal disease.
The ever-present plaque buildup is probably the main cause of periodontal disease. As explained last week, the formation of this toxic plaque triggers an immune system reaction that progresses into a cycle that eventually causes the immune system to attack itself in a sort of “friendly fire” kind of way. The resulting inflammation causes a breakdown of bone and teeth, separation of gums from the teeth and, eventually, a deterioration of supporting tissue that causes teeth to fall out. While this is not a pretty picture of and by itself, there are other contributors to the damage caused by gum diseases.
Age is a factor
According to statistics quoted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you become more likely to develop periodontal disease the more birthdays that you celebrate. They report that nearly half of all Americans who are aged 30 years or older likely have periodontal disease in some stage or form. And, they say that the percentages increase to around seventy percent in the over 65 age group!
If you’re a smoker or other type of tobacco user, add this to the list of risks you are taking each and every time you light up or pinch off your snuff. Research suggests that whether you smoke or utilize smokeless methods of tobacco use, you are participating in the most significant risk factor for the development and progression of periodontal disease. One of the reasons for this is the fact that smoking causes changes in your mouth that can make it more difficult to identify symptoms of gum disease, citing that the heat, tar and nicotine cause decreased blood flow in the oral tissues. With decreased blood flow, you don’t get so much of the swelling, bleeding or gum tenderness that a non-smoker gets that can alert you to the presence of gum or periodontal issues. Frequently, by the time the dentist sees the patient, the tissue resembles rubber and doesn’t facilitate healing.
Even though you may practice good oral hygiene habits, there is a possibility that you will still develop gum disease in some stage or form. Many patients just simply have a genetic predisposition to development and progression of this malady regardless of their attempts to care appropriately for their oral tissues.
These are not, by any means, the only contributing factors to development of periodontal disease. Next time, we will talk about four more contributors that I think you might find surprising. I hope you will tune in next week. In the meantime, it is vital, for your overall general health, that you establish and maintain a regular dental examination routine with your local dental profession. Your Periodontist on Long Island can help to identify and treat gum disease in any member of your family. Call Dr. Scharf at (631)661-6633 or visit him on the web at http://drscharf.com and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser instead of a scalpel.