Maintaining good periodontal health is one of the most important ways to ensure that overall good health can be enjoyed throughout life. Sadly, it is often neglected for one reason or another. We have recently learned that infection and inflammation in the gums can cause changes in the body that affect the immune system and open the door to numerous other health issues. Being vigilant about good oral hygiene is crucial to the prevention of periodontal disease, as is seeking the care of a dental professional.

A Good Start

Baby teeth typically erupt at around four months of age. Keeping them clean can be accomplished with a clean, wet washcloth. No toothpaste should be used until around two or three years. Introducing kids to the dentist at around this age not only catches any potential problems early, it can also help prevent a fear of the dentist chair. A good pediatric dentist will instill a feeling of confidence and trust in the minds of his little patients. Kids’ teeth can be protected from cavities with a sealant. This, along with the proper education on dental hygiene, could prevent any major problems from developing.

Periodontal Disease and General Health

There is research to suggest that a person’s general health can be adversely affected by poor oral health. The infection and inflammation associated with periodontal disease has been found to contribute to cardiovascular disease, dementia and rheumatoid arthritis. People with diabetes have to be especially diligent with their oral hygiene, brushing and flossing at least twice a day and receiving a CPE from a dentist at least once a year. It seems that diabetics are prone to periodontal disease and it complicates their condition by making it harder for them to utilize insulin. Once the periodontal disease is treated, it is easier to control the diabetes. When the infection and inflammation go untreated, damage to the gum tissue and bone that supports the teeth is almost inevitable, as well as loss of teeth, in healthy and diabetic people.

Older Adults and Periodontal Health

In 2000, the US Surgeon General reported that over twenty five per cent of Americans age sixty five to seventy four were suffering from severe periodontal disease. Oral Health America published its national grading report in 2013. Unfortunately, it confirmed that there has been no improvement in the oral health of our elderly population with every state failing in all aspects of geriatric dental services. The worst results were in prevention of problems and the care given to periodontal disease patients who are seniors. At particular risk are the senior citizens in institutions, minorities, low-income and home-bound folks. These are the ones who are the least likely to seek out dental services. By 2030, twenty per cent of all Americans will be sixty five and older and in need of comprehensive dental care to prevent the serious health issues that can be brought on by the onset of periodontal disease. Along with rheumatoid arthritis, dementia and heart disease, evidence has surfaced that implicates oral bacteria can contribute to respiratory infections in the elderly.