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Dental Health: Periodontitis

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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. This is particularly troubling for someone with a weak immune system and/or damaged heart valve, because endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining of the heart) is a very serious possibility.

In addition, some research has suggested that heart disease and clogged arteries may be related to chronic periodontitis which is a severe form of gum disease. Diabetes, HIV/AIDS, osteoperosis, Alzheimer’s disease and others may be associated with tooth loss, painful mouth lesions, and other immune disorders.


Oral health: A window to your overall health. Web. www.mayoclinic.com. Accessed 21 Nov. 2011

Mouth-Body Connection. Web. www.perio.org. Accessed 21 Nov. 2011

Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/GumDiseases/. Web. www.nidcr.nih.gov. Accessed 21 Nov. 2011

Gingivitis By Mayo Clinic staff. Web. www.mayoclinic.com. Accessed 21 Nov. 2011.

Reviewed November 21, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment3 Comments


Good Article. Well written with some very good information. Taking care of your teeth and gums should be a high priority for everyone to avoid the onset and progression of periodontal disease.

Marielaina Perrone DDS
Henderson Periodontal Disease Treatment

October 17, 2012 - 11:05am
EmpowHER Guest

Thanks for the post or share information.
It was really helpful to solve my confusion.

Occupational Medicine

November 23, 2011 - 3:49am

Good info.
Full disclosure, growing up our neighbor was our dentist and my Aunt was his hygienist, so I was taught good dental care from birth. I still don't have good teeth but I take care of them. My dentist says all fillings grow up to be crowns so I have always bought dental insurance, and it is good thing. If you want to keep your teeth and who doesn't, the insurance and good care help.

November 21, 2011 - 3:26pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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