The symptoms of gingivitis and periodontitis (periodontal disease) are often painless but the cost to you as a patient might be greater than you think. Just as certain medical conditions can increase ones’ susceptibility to gum disease, it is now known that the reverse is also true. Gum disease can actually put you at higher risk for many medical issues. That’s right, now is the time for the physicians and dentists to work together to help you, our patients, live a longer and healthier life.
If healthy gum tissue fits like a cuff around each tooth, what are some signs of gum disease? Gum bleeding when you brush or floss, inflamed gums (red, swollen or tender), gum recession around the neck of your teeth and bad breath that won’t go away are just a few of the symptoms of gum disease. None of these described symptoms would necessarily mean that you would have any pain.
But what are the costs to the patient? There is the cost of treatment, the time involved and of course, the mental aspect worrying about the pain involved with the treatment. If one does not get treatment for their gum disease it can ultimately lead to teeth extraction and the loss of function. In some instances there might be some real cosmetic issues if the gum disease is in the front of their mouth or where their friends can see it.
For most of you these costs should come as no surprise, dentistry has tried real hard to educate America about the value of preventive health care, and in particular preventive dentistry. But there are several other costs out there that new research is turning up. While we knew for years that gum disease can be influenced by other health conditions that the patient has, we now know that it is a 2 way street and that gum disease can in turn, turn around and contribute to multiple medical issues, two of the biggest being cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Surgeons have started postponing elective surgeries if the patient has gum disease. So, perhaps the ultimate price to pay for gum disease is a shortened life span.
As a Los Angeles dentist, I know what the high cost of treatment for gum disease can be in a dental office. Here is the kicker though…..gum disease is 100% preventable just like most issues we are having in health care today. I hate to sound like a broken record but it is all about someone taking responsibility for their own health. It might be hard in the beginning or time consuming, or even come at a cost….but prevention beats all the alternatives that health care can provide.
My hope, my goal, is that I can affect the life of someone every now and then by helping them to understand the value of prevention. Having been a dentist in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles the last 30 years I know how hard it is to get people to change their habits. I probably have heard just about every story in the book, but my passion is to help people to get healthy and stay healthy. So look for more blogs about issues regarding health care and prevention.
Until the next blog….stay healthy my friends