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Millions of people avoid the dentist and don’t heed the important advice to have semiannual dental checkups. 

While the high cost of dental care can keep people from making appointments, the cost to your health overall can be much greater. Infections in the mouth may be associated with heart disease, stroke, and many other serious health problems.

Simply put, a healthy body begins with a healthy mouth.

Still, many people too often are only motivated to go to the dentist after they begin to feel pain. They will even avoid the signs of trouble, including bleeding gums. 

Bleeding Gums: A Sign of Inflammation 

Bleeding gums result from inflammation of the oral tissues in and around the gingiva (gums). When we routinely brush and floss our teeth, we remove the bacteria living on the enamel and the supporting dentin underneath. When we neglect to do so, the bacteria in our mouths can build up at and below the gum line. The bacteria then weaken our teeth by producing their corrosive and acidic by-products. Ultimately, the gum infection leads to gingivitis (inflammation without bone loss) or periodontitis (inflammation with bone loss and deep gingival pockets).

Periodontal Disease 

Symptoms of periodontal disease include gums that are red and swollen and bleed easily, gums that seem to have pulled away from the teeth; constant bad breath; pus between your teeth and gums; teeth that seem to be loose or moving away from one another; change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite; change in the way your partial dentures fit.

There are various stages to periodontal disease—from gingivitis (early stage) to periodontitis (advanced disease). Red and swollen gums that bleed easily are a sign of gingivitis. At this early stage, the disease may be reversed with a professional cleaning and more regular daily care at home. During the cleaning, the dentist or dental hygienist will use a special tool to scrape the hardened calculus and plaque from along and beneath your gum line. More advanced forms of the disease require cleanings that go more deeply below the gum line. Sometimes, the dentist will refer you to a specialist—a periodontist—for these cleanings.

Preventing Periodontal Disease

To prevent periodontal disease, brush your teeth twice a day, clean between your teeth with floss once every day, visit your dentist for checkups and have your teeth professionally cleaned. 

What Conditions May be Linked to Oral Health?

Your oral health might contribute to various diseases and conditions, including: 

υ Endocarditis. Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocardium). Endocarditis typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart. 

υ Cardiovascular disease. Some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause. 

υ Pregnancy and birth. Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight. 

Certain conditions also might affect your oral health, including:

υ Diabetes. Diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection — putting the gums at risk. Gum disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes. Research shows that people who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels, and that regular periodontal care can improve diabetes control. 

υ HIV/AIDS. Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS. 

υ Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis — which causes bones to become weak and brittle — might be linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss. Drugs used to treat osteoporosis carry a small risk of damage to the bones of the jaw. 

υ Alzheimer’s disease. Worsening oral health is seen as Alzheimer’s disease progresses. 

In addition, there are lifestyle changes that you can make. If you smoke or chew tobacco, it’s very important to stop. There is a link between tobacco use and the increased risk for developing periodontal disease and other health conditions. 

People with diabetes can have more periodontal disease however those with diabetes who receive treatment have seen improvement in controlling blood sugar levels. 

Dental care is much more than cosmetically taking care of your teeth. It’s not about vanity — seeing a dentist can be the keeper of your overall health and is necessary in taking care of yourself.