Risks of Not Eliminating a Periodontal Pocket

Risks of Not Eliminating a Periodontal Pocket

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You probably already know that there is a strong link between healthy gums and your overall well-being. Good dental care not only saves teeth, but it also helps to keep diseases from developing or getting worse. Your gums actually provide a barrier that keeps inflammation from spreading throughout your body. When plaque leads to gum infections, the periodontist plays a vital role in restoring the tissues to a state in which they can be kept clean by normal brushing and flossing.

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontitis, or gum disease, is a condition in which bacteria accumulate on teeth and the tissues around them, causing the gums to turn red, swell, or bleed when brushed. If left untreated, the inflammation spreads along the roots of the teeth and to the gums below, damaging bone and ligaments and leading to bone loss.

Although it is normal for your mouth to contain bacteria, food debris that is not removed from hard-to-reach areas can grow rapidly and trigger a response from your immune system. In its early stages, this is known as gingivitis. As the disease progresses into periodontitis, however, so does the risk of tooth loss and bone damage. The good news is that this process usually occurs slowly and be stopped with the proper dental care.

What are the signs of periodontal disease?

  • bleeding gums, especially after chewing or brushing 
  • bad breath 
  • recessed gums 
  • loose teeth 
  • pain or discomfort 

Dentists are usually able to detect periodontal pockets during regular exams through a procedure called the Periodontal Screening Index.

What is a periodontal pocket?

As inflammation advances, the loss of tissue and bone around the tooth causes pockets to develop. As the pockets become deeper, they provide more room for germs to grow. These pockets present a risk to general health, not just the mouth. This is why it is necessary to see a periodontist as soon as possible if symptoms develop.

How do untreated periodontal pockets affect health?

A periodontal pocket, usually no more than two to three millimeters deep in its early stages, has a small opening that makes it almost impossible for anyone but a professional to clean. If left untreated, bacteria is trapped inside, causing the pockets to become larger and making already fragile dental conditions even more serious. As the infection spreads, it causes pain and releases germs into the bloodstream, causing teeth to fall out naturally or to require extraction.

In addition to tooth and bone loss, periodontal disease contributes to a wide range of systemic health problems, including the following:

  • Premature birth, low birth weight, and pre-eclampsia 
  • Heart disease and strokes 
  • Diabetes 
  • Other diseases 

Pregnant women who have inflamed gums face a higher risk of complications and may take longer to actually get pregnant. Sufferers also have a greater risk of heart disease and strokes. Diabetics are not only more likely to have periodontal disease, but inflamed gums are also considered a possible complication of diabetes, especially among those with uncontrolled blood sugar levels. Periodontal inflammation itself can increase glucose levels and lead to a higher risk of other problems.

There are also links between the following illnesses and periodontal disease:

  • Bone loss in the jaw and osteoporosis 
  • Respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia 
  • Cancer 

Periodontal disease increases the chance of oral cancer, but risks extend way beyond the mouth. According to the American Board of Periodontology, males with gum disease are 30% more likely to develop blood cancers, 49% more likely to develop cancer of the kidneys, and 54% more likely to develop cancer of the prostate than those with healthy gums.

There is also a greater risk of pancreatic cancer in men, and the presence of certain germs in the gums may even help scientists to detect early forms of cancer in the pancreas. Likewise, women with periodontal inflammation have shown to be more likely to have esophageal, breast, or gallbladder cancer, and there are links between malignancies in the gastrointestinal tract and lungs and inflamed gums.

The best way to take care of your smile is to brush and floss daily and see a professional for regular cleanings and checkups. Catching gum disease in its early stages preserves teeth, prevents inflammation-related complications, and avoids more expensive medical treatment in the long run. Periodontists are specifically trained to deal with these and other problems.

Dr. Marissa Crandall Cruz and Dr. Mana Nejadi provide a wide range of services in the fields of periodontology, oral implantology, and aesthetics. Dr. Cruz is a Diplomate of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists, a member of the American Dental Association, and the American Academy of Periodontology. Dr. Nejadi worked at the University of Pennsylvania as Clinical Assistant Professor, teaching periodontics and implant dentistry. She also served as the Director of the Predoctoral Periodontics program at the University of Pennsylvania. You can learn more about their practice at https://www.kopperio.com.

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