Periodontal disease is actually an infectious disease. Periodontal disease is gum disease. It’s an infection of the oral cavity of the bones and the gum tissue around the teeth, so it’s all the supporting structures we’re talking about. So when your teeth bleed or your gums bleed, that’s a sign that there’s infection going on. It’s not to be taken lightly either because it is infectious, and number two, it can really be a big detriment to your overall health, not just to your teeth.
One of the ways gum disease works is, it’s primarily caused by bacteria in the mouth, and the bacteria gets in there. And we all know about tooth decay. But same kind of bacteria or some of the other ones that are living in your body, basically, they will also eat away at the gums and the bone, the foundation around the teeth. That’s what causes the gums to bleed. People who get bad breath, a lot of times the bad breath isn’t something from what they ate, it’s actually from the gums that are constantly bleeding underneath their tissue.
I have a lot of patients who come and say, “Yeah, my gums have always bled. It doesn’t bother me.” That’s the insidious part about the whole thing, is gum disease doesn’t hurt. Now, sometimes it does, but generally, when it does, it’s in its very aggressive late form. And at that point, generally, the teeth, we can’t save them.
What’s going on is, the bacteria is basically eating away at the body, and the body is trying to defend itself and protect itself. Well, this is going on in what’s called the cardiovascular system, meaning that bacteria is getting into the bloodstream and circulating through the body. People have antibodies, which is what attacks the bacteria and kills it. That’s our natural defense. Some people have better antibodies than others, based on what’s going on in their life.
However, what we’re finding out is the same kind of bacteria that we’re finding in the gums, that primarily causes gum disease, is also the same bacteria that they’re finding in the plaque in arteries. So, people who have heart operations because their arteries are getting hard or closing down, when the surgeon goes in and cleans those arteries out with either a balloon, angioplasty, or when they do biopsies of it, they’re finding that it’s the same bacteria the person has in their mouth.
There’s some other studies that are actually coming out now that are even a little more scary. They’re showing with pregnant women that this same bacteria is getting to the fetus, and in some instances, it could be a possible link to premature baby birth and things like that. So, it’s actually spreading it to their offspring, which is another thing.
So, if you suspect you have gum disease or you suspect “I think I have a problem with my…” first thing that you need, is you need a diagnosis, and you need to see a dentist and have a diagnosis of what’s going on because you want to know what stage the disease is in. Because there are different kinds of treatments that you can do. Some of it’s surgery, and that’s scary; some of it’s non-surgical and not as scary. But it really depends on the diagnosis for the patient.