Gum Disease Linked to Heart Disease
Posted: October 25, 2007
In The Toronto Daily News, we read about how the health of your gums is directly related to the health of your heart. Gum disease is no less serious than other bodily diseases, and should be prevented with purposeful, conscientious oral hygiene. Increasing evidence shows a link between gum disease and heart disease. A French study, reported just last month at the Congress of the European Society of Cardiology, has shown that the more severe the periodontal (gum) disease, the more widespread the damage to the arteries. It's not yet known how gum disease might trigger heart disease, but there's a suggestion that bacteria released from infected gums may enter the bloodstream where they activate the immune system causing inflammation and narrowing of the blood vessels. Bacteria also cause tooth decay. They collect on and between the teeth as dental plaque, and react with sugars in our diet to destroy the tooth enamel. The result: is inflammation, cavities, root canal infection and gum disease. The role of fluoride in preventing tooth decay is well established - whether that fluoride comes from fluoridated water or from pastes, mouthwashes or gels. Dental fluorosis, mottling or marks on the teeth from excessive fluoride intake, is rare but occasionally occurs in children at the time of the formation of tooth enamel if the children swallow too much fluoride from either pastes or supplementation. So parents should clean their infants' teeth with just a soft brush - no toothpaste; and for older children, up to the age of six years, the tooth pastes specially formulated for children (containing a low concentration of fluoride) should be used. Gum disease is very common. Generally it can be managed by reasonable attention to oral hygiene; but recurrent or ongoing gum disease may be indicative of a serious underlying cause. Gingivitis is the name given to inflammation of the gums. Periodontitis is a more severe form of gingivitis when the connective tissue around the teeth is progressively destroyed. Apart from lack of attention to tooth and gum care, other factors which might frequently cause or worsen these conditions are common mouth infections, such as oral thrush, more serious infections (such as HIV) where the immune system is compromised, poorly controlled diabetes, smoking and certain medicines, notably: phenytoin, cyclosporin and the calcium channel blocker blood pressure medicines. Medicines are also a major, possibly the most common, cause of dry mouth known medically as xerostomia. As we get older, all our body secretions are reduced in both quantity and quality. We get dry skin, dry eye and we're more likely to have dry mouth. When taking a few medicines as well, then dry mouth becomes a strong probability. Antidepressants are among those most commonly implicated, but the list of possible offenders also includes some non-prescription medicines such as antihistamines (particularly the older, more sedating antihistamines) and the so-called anticholinergic medicines used for stomach cramp. The high dose codeine-containing pain relievers might also be a problem for some people. There are a number of useful products for the treatment of dry mouth - mouth sprays, mouthwashes, gels and toothpastes. Pharmaceutical Society's Self Care health information program has a fact card titled Dry Mouth which offers suggestions on how to avoid this condition. The Mouth Ulcers card is another useful fact card. It explains the likely causes and the possible long term therapies. Local trauma is often the reason for a mouth ulcer - maybe from a hard bristle toothbrush, dentures or some other form of orthodontic appliance.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please Note: The material on this site is provided for informational purposes only. Always your health care professional before beginning any new therapy.