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A Silent Nuisance - Periodontal Disease

No more smile embarrassmentPeriodontal disease is sneaky. It is usually painless, and no-one worries about it until it gets severe. What is periodontal disease? It means the there is a disease on the surrounding structures of the tooth.

There are two main types of periodontal disease; gingivitis and periodontitis (Chapple et al. 2018). Gingivitis is a less severe form where the gums are irritated and angry due to the bugs present. It can be reversed with good oral hygiene and a regular dental check-up. However, once periodontitis creeps in, there is irreversible damage (Lindhe, Axelsson & Tollskog 1975). Why is that? As inflammation worsens, it can potentially eat away the bone. As a result, the tooth becomes unstable and it falls off.

Believe it or not, periodontal disease can affect your overall health (Winning & Linden 2015; Zhao et al. 2018). It was believed that bugs that can cause periodontal disease can spread to different parts of the body.

Heart Disease

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, periodontal disease has been associated with heart disease (Spahr et al. 2006; Holmlund, Holm & Lind 2006). Although a causal link has not been defined, it is believed that the inflammation may be causing damage to both the heart, coronary artery, and even to the brain (Gibson et al. 2006). As a result of this long-term neglect, it can result in irreversible brain and/or heart damage.

Diabetes

There has been a documented association between periodontal disease and diabetes (Taylor. 2001; Preshaw et al. 2012). People with diabetes are at a greater risk of having periodontal disease because they are more susceptible to infections due to increased sugar levels (Preshaw et al. 2012). Furthermore, because of the uncontrolled sugar levels, there is damage to the blood vessels which reduces nourishment to the gums, hence making it a breeding ground for infection and destruction of the surrounding structure (Falcao and Bullón. 2019).

Other Conditions

There have been a few studies outlining that periodontal disease management could potentially improve the quality of life of the patient with respect to other conditions such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, dementia, and depression. It has been suggested that this may be due to the reduction of chronic inflammation, which could contribute to many other diseases (Falcao and Bullón. 2019).

Periodontal disease might seem harmless at first, but it is most definitely a silent nuisance. There is a clear link between periodontal disease and diabetes and heart disease. Although associations with other conditions are still in the early stages of research, it should not prevent patients from coming in to get a check-up with their dentist to help manage their oral health. I certainly like the clean feeling of my gums once I get my check-up.

#Disclaimer – These experiences are based on evidence and experiences accumulated over time. This is not to be used in a clinical and medical context. Any concerns should be addressed to your dental practitioner.
Dr Alex Park*Dr Alex Park is a dentist at the Dentist WA Canning Vale and Ranford Road Dental Centre. He is also a researcher at the International Research Collaborative – Oral Health and Equity (IRCOHE.net). Any questions can be addressed to alex@ircohe.net. This piece has been mediated by Associate Professor Estie Kruger at IRCOHE.net.

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