Treating gum disease saves more than just your teeth, it can save your life as well.

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease or periodontitis are some of the most common chronic infections in The Bahamas. In fact, 75% of all Bahamian adults over the age of 40 have some form of periodontal disease.

In this column we will discuss gum disease and its effects on some medical conditions.

Periodontal disease is painless until its advanced stages. If left untreated, periodontal disease can cause bad breath and bleeding gums. It is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. Most adults lose their teeth due to gum disease rather than cavities or just normal aging.

Despite these facts, periodontal disease is preventable. Also, the disease process gives the periodontist and dentist a guide as to the state of your overall health.

The word “periodontal” literally means around the tooth. It is a gum infection caused by bacterial plaque that destroys the supporting structures around the tooth. Plaque causes disease by forming a sticky colony of germs that forms on your tooth surfaces. It is your responsibility with the aid of your dental health care provider to remove it regularly. If the plaque is not removed, it becomes hard and called “tartar”. When the tartar gets below the gum line then you are at risk for disease and early loss of teeth.

There are several forms of periodontal disease; including Gingivitis, Mild, Moderate and Severe Periodontitis. Signs of gum disease include bleeding gums, red or swollen gums, receding gums, bad breath or loose teeth. As mentioned before, most of these signs have no pain associated with them.

Studies show that Periodontal Disease is directly associated with Heart Disease, Low Birth Weight Babies, Diabetes, Osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease. Women are particularly susceptible if they are pregnant with poor dental hygiene.

These same germs that cause the disease produce toxins resulting in premature contractions. The natural result is an earlier than expected delivery. The toxins also damage the lining of the coronary blood vessels around the heart thereby worsening their medical condition. As far as heart disease is concerned, the germs causing gum disease get into the blood stream and collect on your heart valves. Persons who suffer from gum disease have a greater chance of suffering from a cerebral stroke or heart attack. To this end, good dental health and proper gum care can optimize the functioning of one’s heart.

Diabetes and other medical conditions can also contribute to periodontal disease. Research shows that a person with uncontrolled diabetes is more likely to have periodontal disease as well making the disease more aggressive.

If you are pregnant, taking certain medications, diabetic or diagnosed with osteoporosis it is advisable that you visit your dentist for a gum evaluation.

Treating the disease can be as simple as a dental cleaning (prophylaxis), scaling and if required laser treatment, to return your gums to a healthier state.

You can help to prevent periodontal disease by brushing and flossing with regular attendance to your dental professional. A cleaning twice per year is a good place to start and maintain your health. Remember, good hygiene practices and regular professional care are the keys to prevent periodontal disease and decreased the risk of worsening other medical conditions.

Your teeth were meant to last a lifetime. The greater benefit is the improvement in your overall health. 

Dr. Kendal V. O. Major is Founder and CEO of Center for Specialized Dentistry which is a comprehensive family dental practice operating in Nassau and Freeport. He is the first Bahamian Specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He also is a certified Fastbraces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue, Nassau at (242)325-5165 or [email protected].


See bone loss and pocket formation in periodontitis

Gum swelling caused by a periodontal abscessed tooth

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