July 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Periodontal disease is a common condition that affects the supporting bone and gum structure around the teeth. Also known as gum disease, half of all American aged 30 or older have periodontitis, the more advanced form of periodontal disease. Gum disease is caused by bacteria. These bacteria, along with mucus and other particles, constantly form a sticky, colorless plaque on teeth. Brushing and flossing help get rid of plaque. Plaque that is not removed can harden and form tartar, which cannot be removed by brushing. Only a professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar. The longer plaque and tartar are on teeth, the more harmful they become. The first stage is called gingivitis. When gingivitis is not treated it can advance to periodontitis, also called periodontal disease. This is an inflammatory response to the plaque and tarter. In periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces (called pockets) that become infected. The body’s immune system fights the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line. If not treated, the bones, gums, and tissue that support the teeth are destroyed. The teeth may eventually become loose and have to be removed.

Besides causing problems in the mouth, periodontal disease has been linked to other serious issues. Research suggests that the inflammatory response caused by the bacteria causes inflammation in other areas of the body as well. Some examples of these diseases are:

Diabetes—Periodontal disease may make it more difficult for people who have diabetes to control their blood sugar. Severe periodontal disease can increase blood sugar, contributing to increased periods of time when the body functions with a high blood sugar. This puts people with diabetes at increased risk for diabetic complications.

Heart disease—Several studies have shown that periodontal disease is associated with heart disease. Scientists believe that inflammation caused by periodontal disease may be responsible for the association. Periodontal disease can also exacerbate existing heart conditions. Patients at risk for infective endocarditis may require antibiotics prior to dental procedures. Your physician will be able to determine if your heart condition requires use of antibiotics prior to dental procedures.

Stroke—Studies have pointed to a relationship between periodontal disease and stroke. In one study that looked at the causal relationship of oral infection as a risk factor for stroke, people diagnosed with acute cerebrovascular ischemia were found more likely to have an oral infection when compared to those in the control group.

Erectile Dysfunction—While not technically a disease, the latest research indicates that patients who were treated for gum disease lessened the symptoms of ED within three months. So gentleman, if your heart health isn’t reason enough to get your regular dental cleanings, perhaps this will convince you.

As with any issues, most dental problems can be avoided if you have regular dental checkups. So call your dentist—the health of your entire body depends on it!

Dr. Herbert Schneider has been recognized for his work with fellowship awards from the Academy of General Dentistry and the American Endodontic Society. He also holds a prestigious Mastership from the World Clinical Laser Institute. Dr. Rachel Jacobs joined the practice in 2006. Her calm, yet precise, manner makes her a hit with both adults and children. Both doctors are certified in the uses of three different clinical lasers. They can be reached at www.DumontDentist.com.

By Dr. Rachel Jacobs and Dr. Herbert Schneider

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