Gum recession is a relatively common condition in which a person’s gum lines recede upward toward the roof of their mouth. Gum recession can be caused by a number of different things, including gum disease, teeth-grinding, brushing too hard, and inheriting genes that produce weaker gum tissue. But while the condition isn’t unusual, it is something that should be taken seriously. People who address their gum recession early build a foundation for strong oral health through the rest of their lives. Here are some of the most important reasons to seek out treatment at the first signs of gum recession.
The visible parts of healthy teeth are called the crowns. Crowns are fortified with a layer of enamel that keep them protected from all the wear-and-tear that comes with 24/7 exposure. Underneath the crown is the root. The root is arguably the most important part of a tooth. It keeps teeth anchored in the mouth and connects them to the rest of the body.
When gums recede enough, they eventually leave your teeth’s roots exposed. This is not a position you want your teeth to be in. Exposed roots can be extremely sensitive and vulnerable to rot, decay, and, ultimately, tooth loss.
Gum recession leaves mouths more exposed to bacteria that can cause more serious conditions, including gingivitis and periodontitis. These gum diseases can create a host of undesirable symptoms and complications, including swollen and tender gums, bad breath, and bleeding.
The underlying health of our teeth and gums is vitally important. But we also can’t deny the aesthetic weight our teeth carry, either. A person’s teeth and smile play a substantial role in their overall appearance. Individuals with significant gum recession have smiles that suffer for it. Without normal gum levels, people tend to have toothier smiles that show off exposed roots and less-than-ideal gum lines.
Researchers say they’ve found more evidence linking bacteria found in a common type of gum disease to dementia. A new study, published in the journal Science Advances, found a key pathogen associated with chronic periodontal disease in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
The study authors say these results, plus additional testing in mice, provide “solid evidence” of a link between the two diseases and may offer a potential new way to treat Alzheimer’s. The devastating illness affects 47 million people worldwide, and there is no cure.
However, Alzheimer’s experts not involved in the research caution that it is too early to tell how strong this association is, or whether it could lead to effective treatments.
What the new study found
Scientists from Cortexyme, Inc., a privately held, clinical-stage pharmaceutical company, analyzed the brain tissues of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and found evidence of Porphyromonas gingivalis, the bacteria associated with gum disease.
Further tests in mice found that this bacteria could travel from the mouth to the brain and increased production of amyloid beta, a protein strongly associated with Alzheimer’s.
In addition to the Porphyromonas gingivalis, the researchers found toxic enzymes produced by the bacteria called gingipains in the neurons of patients with Alzheimer’s. Higher levels gingipain were associated with tau and ubiquitin, two other proteins involved in the development of Alzheimer’s.
The team also tested drugs in mice aimed at clearing the harmful bacteria and blocking its toxic enzymes. In these lab experiments, scientists were able to reduce the number of Porphyromonas gingivalis bacteria in the infected brains, block the production of toxic proteins, and halt degeneration in the brain.
The researchers hope this will provide the basis for developing a new therapy that could one day treat humans in a similar way.
“The findings of this study offer evidence that P. gingivalis and gingipains in the brain play a central role in the pathogenesis [development] of AD [Alzheimer’s disease], providing a new conceptual framework for disease treatment,” the study authors write.
Research on infections and Alzheimer’s disease
This is not the first study to show a relationship between gum disease and Alzheimer’s.
A 2017 study out of Taiwan found that people with chronic gum disease lasting 10 years had a 70 percent increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s. Another small study published in 2016 in the journal PLOS ONE found gum disease was associated with a six-fold increase in the rate of cognitive decline in people with mild to moderate dementia.
Other research has looked at whether various bacterial, viral, or fungal infections may play a role in Alzheimer’s, but there is currently not enough evidence to say.
“The idea that bacteria and viruses may play a part in brain disease like Alzheimer’s is not necessarily new,” Rebecca Edelmayer, Ph.D., director of scientific engagement for the Alzheimer’s Association, told CBS News. “But what this paper suggests is really an association and not causation and that should be very clearly emphasized when we’re talking about studies like this. More research is needed to really identify a causative role for microbes.”
In other words, it’s unknown whether gum disease increases the risk of Alzheimer’s or if people with dementia have an increased risk of gum disease because of poor oral care.
Edelmayer also cautions not to put too much weight on drugs tested in mice. “It really will be important to see how this plays out in human randomized controlled trials, which is the gold standard for understanding whether a therapeutic targeting something like the P. gingivalis mechanism would actually be effective,” she said.
Could good oral care help prevent Alzheimer’s?
While taking care of your teeth and gums is an important part of healthy aging, Edelmayer says it’s too early to say if those steps could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
“We think a lot about things like diet, exercise, a good management of cardiovascular health, getting good sleep. All of these things could potentially play a role as a lifestyle intervention for decreasing your risk of developing cognitive decline,” Edelmayer said.
She notes that good oral health could one day fall into one of these categories if there’s more evidence to show that gum disease actually increases the risk for developing dementia.
Still, Edelmayer says with so much still unknown about the disease, studies like this are important for gaining a better understanding of Alzheimer’s.
“I think the research really reinforces the complexity of Alzheimer’s disease,” she said. “It highlights the importance of sharing information and experiments and data like this very freely and widely across the research community so this robust discussion about this kind of science takes place.”
Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection in the gums that can impact the teeth and jawbone if left unchecked. About half of all children suffer from periodontal disease. Fortunately, if identified and treated early, its effects can be managed and even reversed to allow your child to return to optimal oral health through adolescence and beyond.
There are several factors that can lead to the onset of periodontal disease in children. Poor oral hygiene and untreated plaque are the most common, but diet, diabetes, hormonal changes, and even genetic predisposition can increase your child’s risk.
Your child should be screened for periodontal disease if their gums are:
Bleeding from brushing and/or flossing
If left unchecked, periodontal disease can cause your child’s gums to pull away from the teeth, affecting the structure of the bone beneath and potentially impacting their jaw alignment and bite. Over time, bone and tooth loss can occur.
Periodontal disease is preventable and highly treatable. Regular cleaning and exam appointments will help keep your child’s teeth and gums healthy. Teach your child about the importance of daily oral hygiene. If periodontal disease has begun, our doctor can help. Contact our office for your child’s periodontal screening today.
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Your teeth age with you. It’s important to keep them strong and healthy even as you grow older. Seniors are at a higher risk for developing periodontal disease. In addition to getting a regular dental examination, here are some other tips to keep your teeth healthy.
Keep a Routine
Regardless of age, we cannot stress the importance of keeping up with a daily oral hygiene routine. Make sure you are brushing twice-daily and flossing at least once per day. For seniors with dentures, it is important that you remove them for at least four hours each day. We recommend removing them at night. Dentures need to be cleaned daily so make it part of your routine as well. We also suggest staying hydrated by drinking water. Not only does water help keep you producing enamel building saliva, but if it contains fluoride, it can help keep your teeth strong. Make a regular visit to our office part of your routine as well.
Tips for Caregivers
If you are the primary caregiver of someone elderly, working with them to keep their teeth healthy can be a challenge. It is up to you to remind them to brush and floss regularly. Help them by establishing a routine and set times for brushing their teeth. We ask that you assist them in making an appointment to visit our dental office. If keeping up with daily dental health seems to be too difficult, please contact our office. We can work with you to offer some advice and solutions.
For seniors in a nursing home that are enrolled in state or national financial programs, the American Dental Association (ADA) suggests considering the Incurred Medical Expense regulation. This works to assist in paying for care that is deemed a necessity. If our dentist finds that treatment must be done, consider this as an option to lessen the financial burden. Talk to your nursing home or care facility’s caseworker for more information.
Don’t Forget About Gums
Periodontal disease, or gum disease, can be brought on by certain medications. When you visit our office, be sure to update us on any changes to your medications. At times, early periodontal disease is painless which makes it even more important that you keep a regular routine of visiting our office for a thorough exam and evaluation. According to the ADA, more than 47% of adults over the age of 30 have chronic periodontitis.
Keeping your teeth healthy as you age can be difficult. We suggest sticking to a daily routine in terms of brushing and flossing, and keeping up with regular visits to our office. If you are the caregiver of an elderly spouse, parent, or loved one, do not overlook their oral health. Make sure they are receiving the needed attention and are sticking to a daily oral healthy routine.
Periodontal disease ranges from a mild inflammation of the gum tissues to periodontitis, a major oral disease that can result in soft tissue and bone damage. Periodontitis is the leading cause of adult tooth loss in the United States.
One of the major causes of gum disease is practicing poor oral hygiene habits. Daily brushing and flossing and regular professional exams and cleanings are essential to maintaining optimal oral health. When these practices are not followed, plaque can form on the teeth and along the gumline. If this plaque is not properly removed, it may harden over time and become tartar. Once that occurs, only a dental professional can remove the tartar from teeth.
If gum disease is not treated in a timely manner, tartar may continue to build unchecked. When this occurs, the gum disease may advance to gingivitis. In this stage, gums redden, swell, and become prone to bleeding from normal activities, such as brushing or eating. Some other common symptoms include: chronic halitosis (bad breath), sensitive teeth, and difficulty or pain with chewing. At this point, professional periodontal treatment is needed to prevent the gingivitis from advancing to periodontitis.
When gingivitis is not treated in time, it may become periodontitis. Periodontitis is the most advanced form of periodontal disease. With periodontitis, gums begin to pull away from the teeth, creating small “pockets” along the gumline. These spaces are highly difficult to clean without professional intervention and can lead to rapid worsening in overall oral health. Without prompt and thorough treatment, bone, gums, and soft tissues may be destroyed by periodontitis.
Some of the most common factors that contribute to periodontal disease developing include poor oral hygiene habits, diabetes, smoking, and hormonal changes in women. Some medications can cause gum tissue to grow abnormally, which can increase difficulty in proper cleaning of the teeth. People who are receiving treatment for AIDS are also at increased risk of developing periodontal disease.
Many recent studies have found that untreated periodontal disease may negatively impact other aspects of your overall health, especially for patients with cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Periodontal disease can also increase the risk of developing certain pregnancy complications, such as low birth weight or premature birth.
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