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Poor Oral Health Affects More than your Mouth January 14, 2010

FOR MORE INFORMATION, contact Rebecca Sylvester at 706/828-2394.

Poor Oral Health Affects More than your Mouth

AUGUSTA, GA. (Jan. 12, 2010) – Researchers have found that periodontitis, the advanced form of gum disease that can cause tooth loss, is associated with other health problems such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and bacterial pneumonia.

Also, pregnant women who have periodontitis are at increased risk for delivering pre-term and/or low birth weight babies, according to Beth Barranco, R.N., from University Hospital and medical correspondent for NBC Augusta’s Healthy U segment.

“Lately there have been frightening stories that link oral bacteria and gum disease to a variety of serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses,” Mrs. Barranco said. “This is a serious health issue that unfortunately too often goes unresolved and leads to ill effects on your overall health.”

Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection of the tissues that surround and support the teeth. It is a major cause of tooth loss in adults, Mrs. Barranco said. It is caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. These bacteria create toxins that can damage the gums.

Risk factors that may increase your risk of gum disease include the following:

  • Tobacco smoking or chewing
  • Systemic diseases such as diabetes
  • Medications such as steroids, some types of anti-seizure drugs, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers and oral contraceptives
  • Bridges that no longer fit properly
  • Crooked teeth
  • Fillings that have become defective
  • Pregnancy

Mrs. Barranco said that it is important that gum disease, also known as gingivitis, is detected early. The early stages include red, swollen and tender gums that bleed easily. “At this stage, the disease is usually reversible and can usually be eliminated by daily brushing and flossing,” she said.

In the advanced stages of gum disease, called periodontitis, you may have the following symptoms:

  • Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste
  • Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
  • Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • Any change in the fit of partial dentures

“It is possible to have periodontal disease and have no warning signs,” Mrs. Barranco said. “That is one reason why regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations are very important.”

Good oral hygiene is essential to help keep periodontal disease from becoming more serious or recurring, she said. It is important to brush and floss between your teeth, eat a balanced diet and schedule regular dental visits for a lifetime of healthy smiles.

For more information or questions on gum disease and oral health, visit the American Dental Association Web site @ www.ada.org or contact ASK-A-NURSE at 706/737-8423. Healthy U airs every Tuesday morning at 6:20 a.m. on NBC Augusta.

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