There are two major stages of gum disease: Gingivitis and Periodontitis. Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease and can be treated and reversed if diagnosed early. Periodontitis is the serious and advanced stage of gum disease, which includes bone loss and is irreversible. Poor oral hygiene is the most common cause of periodontitis.
Common symptoms of gum disease are:
- Frequent bad breath
- Red and swollen gums that bleed easily
- Gums separating from the teeth
- Loose teeth
- Change in your bite
- Change in the way partials or dentures fit
While gum disease is a serious problem, it can be easily prevented. Brushing twice a day, flossing daily and regular check ups with your dentist are the best ways to prevent gum disease, thus protecting your overall health.
In the past, oral health has been associated only with the mouth. New research has found that the advanced stage of gum disease, periodontitis, is linked with health problems such as heart disease and stroke. Some researchers have even suggested that periodontitis can cause premature birth, low birth weight, pancreatic cancer, high blood sugar levels and even bacterial pneumonia
Even though studies have linked gum disease to many health problems, the American Dental Association states that, “Just because two conditions occur at the same time, doesn’t necessarily mean that one condition causes the other.” Much more research is needed on this subject.
Bacterial endocarditis is a common risk associated with periodontal disease. Bacterial endocarditis is an infection in the lining of the heart or heart valves, which could damage or destroy these valves.
Bacterial endocarditis can also occur in patients who have minor heart valve problems, especially if periodontal disease is present. The consensus is that bacteria can get into the bloodstream from infected gums, which can activate infection in the bloodstream within the heart.
According to the American Heart Association, bacterial endocarditis happens when bacteria in the bloodstream, called bacteremia, lodge on heart tissue that has been damaged or on abnormal heart valves.
Sources: The Academy of General Dentistry; The American Heart Association. 05 August 2007.