Is Tooth and Gum Health Really THAT Important?


Researchers have long identified links between periodontal (gum) infections and other major diseases throughout the body. 

Current studies have identified the strong link between gum disease and cardiovascular disease along with a host of other body illnesses. Much of today’s research suggests that gum disease may be a more serious risk factor for heart disease than high blood pressure (hypertension), smoking, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, gender, and age. Studies suggest that people who have gingivitis or periodontal (gum) bacteria trapped underneath their gums seem to be at a higher risk for heart attacks. The evidence is becoming clearer every day that the level of your oral health affects your overall body health in the same way. 

When bacteria are present underneath the gums, they are typically painless and are of little concern as they cannot be felt but they can often quietly come loose and move throughout the body. These same bacteria irritate your gums and can travel to your arteries, and your body’s organs through the bloodstream. Researchers are unsure exactly what causes the bacteria to become mobile, but it has been suggested that it can be dislodged during tasks as simple as brushing, flossing or even chewing.

Your risk of developing cardiovascular disease varies according to the severity of gum infection. Infected gums bleed to flush out the bacteria, thus making it easier for bacteria to enter your bloodstream. If bacteria reach the arteries, they can irritate them in the same way that they irritate gum tissue. This could cause arterial plaque to accumulate, which can cause hardening of the arteries and decreased or blocked blood flow. Compromised blood flow to your heart can cause a heart attack. Arterial plaque can also come loose and travel to other parts of the body. If a blockage occurs in the brain, it can cause a stroke. 

New research shows links between periodontal health, diabetic health, and the risk factors for developing diabetes. Diabetic patients should take extra care to ensure that their gums are totally healthy. Gum diseases are infections that should always be taken seriously. Since gum disease often shows few or no symptoms at all, watch for gums that are red and irritated or bleed easily as a first warning sign. There are many new treatments available to control and to help reverse gum disease. 

Brushing and flossing regularly to remove plaque you can’t see below the gumline is important, as well as to schedule regular checkups with your periodontist. It is highly suggested that an evaluation by a periodontist should be recommended to anyone over the age of 35. This exam will not only identify periodontal disease but will find factors that put you at risk for future disease and other health related issues. Just like a colonoscopy or mammogram, a periodontal examination should be a part of your preventive health routine.

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Dr. Karl Smith
Dr. Karl Smith has been in dental practice for over thirty-four years. He received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1981 and immediately entered General Practice in the US Air Force Dental Corps. He successfully completed three additional years of advanced education in the specialty of Periodontics with additional training in IV Sedation and Dental Implants in 1992, at the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio and Wilford Hall USAF Medical Center. He won the John Pritchard Prize for outstanding research which included looking for a vaccine against bacteria that cause periodontal disease. Dr. Smith completed a Master of Business Administration degree with a Certificate in Health Services Management while working full time as a Periodontist. In his free time Dr. Smith enjoys traveling nationally and internationally. He is an expert skier and enjoys playing other sports including tennis. Family time with his five children and many grandchildren is also very important to him. Dr. Smith's team describes him as a dentist with superpowers! They know that when he speaks with his patients, he does so with a great deal of care and concern, and because he has a genuine desire to improve their lives and smiles! Dr. Smith is a member of many dental organizations including the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Periodontology.