Periodontal disease is a slow, progressive disease that affects the teeth, gums, and surrounding bone structure. As periodontal disease advances it can lead to tooth loss but recent studies have linked it to issues that can be much more sinister to your overall health. In recent years periodontal disease has been linked to heart disease and alzheimer’s disease. New studies have also linked it to changes to your blood pressure.
Stages Of Periodontal Disease
–Gingivitis – This is the earliest stage of periodontal disease. Gingivitis is the most mild form of periodontal disease. Symptoms include red, swollen (or puffy) and inflamed gums due to plaque-bacteria build-up. The gums may also bleed easily during brushing or eating of hard foods. During the earliest of stages the periodontal disease process it can be reversed thru proper brushing, flossing and professional dental care to remove the excess bacterial plaque. If the required oral hygiene does not occur, the periodontal disease then progresses to the next stage. The majority of people with this early form of periodontal disease, do not even know a dental problem exists. This is a crucial period for the patient, as the condition can be reversed (since the bone and connective tissue that hold the teeth in place have not yet been affected) at this point if it is recognized and properly treated.
–Periodontitis – As the periodontal disease progresses it will become harder to treat and control. The difference between gingivitis and periodontitis is that gingivitis only infects the gum tissue that surrounds the teeth while the periodontal disease process also invades the bone that provides support and stability for the teeth. The bacteria eventually invades past the initial the gum line area and destruction begins to the point that gums may begin to separate or pull away from the teeth (taking away support and connective fibers with it). What results are called periodontal pockets. These pockets allow for bacteria to invade below the gum line. They eventually become loaded with toxic plaque and bacteria that moves and works its way deeper. It begins to erode the bone below the gum line. A patient’s bite will be affected (as the teeth shift or loosen) by the lost support which then affects chewing and other functions.
–Advanced Periodontitis – As the periodontal disease process advances, the fibers and bone that provide support for the teeth is destroyed. At least half of the bone support (if not more) will have broken down at this late stage of periodontal disease. It does not grow back naturally. Teeth may begin to loosen. Deep root cleanings and surgical intervention are typical at this stage. This may include cleaning with a periodontal microscope, (Perioscope), grafting of tissue, bone, placement of growth factors, (Emdogain), periodontal antibiotic regimen (Periostat), placement of antibiotics directly into pockets, (Arestin), open flap surgery, and, possibly tooth removal.
Blood Pressure And Periodontal Disease
Recent research suggests that the presence of periodontal disease may interfere with the control of high blood pressure. The research team that completed the study reviewed medical and dental records of more than 3,600 people previously diagnosed with high blood pressure.
The study compared and contrasted the records to separate those with periodontal disease and those without. They found that those with periodontal disease were less likely to respond favorably to high blood pressure medications being prescribed. They were also found to be 20% less likely to be able to achieve healthy high blood pressure targets.
This study will need further investigation to confirm but adds another direct link that our oral health is intimately connected to our overall health.
Regular visits to the dentist along with good dental hygiene at home should be enough to keep periodontal disease in check and give your overall health a boost. It is becoming ever more important to maintain good dental hygiene if you wish to maintain good overall health. Speak to your dentist at your next visit if you are having trouble maintaining healthy blood pressure. Periodontal disease could be the cause.