It is no secret that nowadays, life expectancy is much longer than it used to be, and the number of people who are over 70 years old in the USA alone is around 35 million. This means that despite advances in modern medicine, systemic diseases such as diabetes, respiratory problems, and cardiovascular problems (among others), become more common in older patients.
What I have observed, alarmingly, is the number of patients with periodontal disease, also known as periodontitis, without knowing that they have this problem, and worse, without knowing that this is a condition directly related to systemic diseases that can occur in all areas of the human body. If we stop to think, the mouth is perhaps the biggest gateway to the body. Since it is lined by mucosa, a highly vascularized tissue, everything is quickly absorbed by it and starts to circulate in the bloodstream, including bacteria and other microbes. Here in America, statistics show that around 47% of the population over 30 years old has some degree of periodontitis, which is a very high number, very close to half of the total population. Although the main cause of this problem is bacterial plaque and tartar, which will lead to inflammation of the tissues that support the teeth, genetic and hereditary factors are also highly associated.
Diabetic patients or those with a heart condition are at much greater risk when they develop periodontal disease, which can even lead to death. These patients have a much higher count of bacteria in their mouths and are also at risk of aspirating them and developing respiratory infections. Other problems such as rheumatoid arthritis and babies being born very underweight are also regularly associated with periodontitis. There is also a predisposition to tooth loss since with this condition the tissues that support the teeth are compromised, causing them to soften and fall out. These types of treatments to combat tooth loss can become expensive, complex, and time-consuming.
The good news is that with prevention and regular visits to a serious and attentive dentist, we can prevent, treat and control the problem. Scaling and root planning, laser treatments, use of local antibiotics, and periodic maintenance are extremely important to reduce the risks. I often notice that patients who have never undergone periodontal exams are surprised when they receive the diagnosis of gum disease because the problem can be silent.
Nowadays, even if there is tooth loss, we are able to regenerate bone structures and treat the loss with implants, but the ideal is not to let it get to this point. The best way is always to seek preventive treatments and follow your dentist's guidelines, whether in the office or at home during your daily hygiene routine. In this way, we will achieve a longer life, with a healthy mouth and body so that we can enjoy our families and the abundant pleasures of life.
For more information contact Lake Lucerne Dentistry at (407) 410-4489.