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For Your Information – Life Savers

In perhaps the most dramatic dental-health discovery of the last decade, researchers now have evidence that caring for your gums and teeth can not only save your smile, it may save your life.  Many studies have shown that when gum disease is present, the threat of heart disease goes up.  Researchers believe that bacteria from diseased gums may spread through the bloodstream, inviting not only heart disease but stroke.

When dentists check for “pockets” in people’s gums, they’re looking to see whether the gums have separated from the teeth.  This is caused by an infection that attacks the ligaments and bones that hold your teeth in place.  The danger signs for this periodontitis are pockets that measure 4mm or deeper and are a bit swollen and tender.  At this point, simply brushing and flossing will not solve the problem.  The infection needs to be treated below the gum line with what is called root planing and scaling.  This gets the bacteria out of the pockets and off exposed roots.  If the infection continues to hang on, then periodontal surgery may be necessary.

In the next decade or so, a vaccine may make today’s gum treatments obsolete.  Doctors at the University of Washington in Seattle have spent 15 years developing a vaccine against gum-attacking bacteria.

Meanwhile, a study of nearly 15,000 Americans ages 15 to 74 has found that 95 percent of those who have good oral hygiene don’t have periodontal disease.  Good oral hygiene involves brushing and flossing and getting professional cleanings twice a year.  A simple cleaning removes plaque, tartar and keeps any pockets from deepening.  Your gums and teeth should last a lifetime.  If you give them good care, they probably will.

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