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Gum Disease and Your Overall Health

By Jill Feilmeier on July 10, 2012 in Dental Health

Dentist showing older man patient how to brush their teeth

The link between gum disease and various health problems have been repeatedly discussed in large news networks, dental associations and dentist's offices but do you truly understand what the reports say? Sometimes, people can misunderstand what reports say because of all the scientific jargon that is included. If you don't have a science background, chances are that you do not recognize certain words being thrown around in these articles.

To understand how gum disease is linked to your overall health, we must first understand more about gum disease.

Periodontal disease is a disease that infects the gum tissue in your mouth. It is a chronic disease that has 2 levels of severity: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is the mild and early stage of gum disease. It is reversible with good oral health habits. Periodontitis is the more severe form of gum disease. This stage is not reversible and can cause permanent damage to your teeth and your oral cavity bones.

Periodontal disease is an infection. Just like a cut on your hand could get infected, your gums can also and this is how we develop periodontal disease. It is the infection characteristic of periodontal disease that can have an effect on your overall health.

Now, in the reports I mentioned above, two other words are used: cause and association. Some will say gum disease is associated with certain health problems, and others will say a health problem is caused by gum disease.

A limited amount of health problems are caused by gum disease; meaning the disease directly causes the health problem. Many more health problems are associated with gum disease; meaning that the health problem would have occurred if gum disease was present or not. If the health problem is associated with gum disease, it could mean that gum disease made the health problem worse or the risk for gum disease will increase with the occurrence of the health problem.

As you can see, there is a very fine line between the two so it is important to understand the difference in order to understand the reports.

The best way to make sure your overall and oral health remains in good shape is to have good oral health habits and visit the dentist two times a year.