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Experts believe that oral health can offer clues about one’s overall health, as problems in one’s mouth can affect the rest of your body. The mouth is filled with bacteria, which are mostly innocuous. These bacteria, along with mucus and other particles, form a sticky "plaque" on teeth.
Brushing and flossing help get rid of plaque. The body's natural defenses, coupled with a solid oral health care regimen serves to keep these bacteria under control. Plaque that is not removed can harden and form "tartar", which brushing doesn't clean. Only a professional cleaning by a dentist professional can remove tartar.
Harmful bacteria can also grow out of control and cause problems such as gum disease and/or tooth decay. The longer plaque and tartar are on teeth, the more problematic they become.
The bacteria cause inflammation of the gums known as gingivitis. People with gingivitis tend to have gums that are red, swollen and can bleed easily.
Gingivitis is a rather mild form of gum disease, as it does not include any loss of bone and tissue that hold teeth in place. Gingivitis can usually be reversed with daily brushing and flossing and regular cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist.
Left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis (inflammation around the tooth). People with periodontitis experience gums pulling away from the teeth that form spaces (pockets), which become infected.
With periodontitis, the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line. And bacterial toxins start to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place.
In such case, the bones, gums, and tissue that support the teeth can be destroyed. The teeth may eventually become loose and/or have to be removed.
Many adults in the United States currently have some form of gum disease. Periodontal diseases range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease that results in major damage.
In the most extreme cases, teeth are lost. In serious cases, gum disease can allow bacteria to enter into the bloodstream.