When we discuss with our patients the importance of caring for their gums, it’s not just because of the inflammation we observe. We are concerned about the health issues that stem from gum disease. In addition to contributing to receding gums, sensitivity, bad breath, and tooth loss, it is well-established that gum disease contributes to an array of serious health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
There is further cause for concern; studies have shown a link between severe gum disease, or periodontitis, and dementia. A recent study by Seoul National University in South Korea examined the relationship between chronic periodontitis and dementia and concluded that “chronic periodontitis may be associated with a higher risk of developing dementia.”
Dementia is a decline in mental capacity, including reasoning and memory, that disrupts a person’s daily activities. A report by the World Health Organization estimated 35.6 million people were living with dementia in 2012. That number is expected to double by 2030 and triple by 2050.
As dementia becomes increasingly common among the elderly, it’s important to manage the risk factors as much as possible. One risk factor that can be managed by preventive dental care and daily oral care habits is chronic periodontitis.
Signs of Gum Disease
The early warning signs of gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease, may not be painful. Look for:
- swollen and red gums
- bleeding when brushing and flossing
- chronic bad breath
Periodontitis, however, results in damage to the teeth and gums and more painful symptoms, including:
- gums pulling away from the teeth
- loose teeth
- tooth loss
- pain when chewing
Treat Gum Disease Before it Becomes Severe
Before gum disease advances, there are preventative measures you can take to keep your gums healthy.
- brush twice a day
- floss daily
- rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash
- visit your dentist for cleanings twice a year
If you have gum disease, its treatment will involve controlling the infection and preventing further damage. Your dentist will clean your teeth and perform scaling and root planing to remove bacteria-producing plaque build-up around the gum line. Antibiotic medication may be prescribed if you have gum pockets that are harboring bacteria. In advanced cases, surgery may be needed to remove the infection under the gums or repair bone loss.
Lower the Risk of Dementia
Dementia is a devastating disease for individuals and their families. We encourage you to lower your risk of developing dementia by practicing good oral hygiene. In addition to brushing and flossing daily, visit your dentist for regular cleanings. Also, avoid sugary and sticky foods which increase the production of bacteria and plaque. Support your immune system, and the ability to fight infection, through a healthy diet.
You may also be interested in: Good Oral Health May Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease