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Question: “I recently read an article concerning gum disease and the impact that it can have on my overall health. How can what’s in my mouth harm my body?”

Answer: The past decade has yielded startling information regarding periodontal (gum) disease and its relevance to one’s overall health. The human body is a system in which a problem in one area will, more often than not, affect other areas. In this case, the pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. This bacterial “plaque” can adhere to arterial walls and release toxins. Additionally, bacteria-fighting blood cells can trigger an autoimmune response which can actually exacerbate an existing problem.

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The list of disorders that have been linked to gum disease is growing every year as research continues in this area. Heart disease, Alzheimer’s, respiratory diseases, diabetes, arthritis, and low birth-weight babies are just a few of the conditions that have shown a link to the bacteria associated with gum disease. Perhaps one of the most unsettling revelations is that this bacteria can be transferred from one person to another through kissing, sharing toothbrushes, etc.

Roughly seventy-five percent of American adults have some level of periodontal disease. Obviously, the first step in avoiding this pervasive condition is to diligently brush and floss your teeth every single day. This decreases the likelihood of bacterial proliferation in your mouth. Make sure that your spouse or “significant other” is doing the same. Regular, professional cleaning in a dental office is also essential. The help of a dental hygienist or dentist is necessary because we cannot remove hard deposits (tartar) on our own.

If you suffer from symptoms including bleeding when you brush or floss, persistent bad breath, or red, swollen gums, you need to contact a dentist who can help you overcome this problem. Your health depends upon it.

Dr. Jim Arnold is a practicing dentist in Chesterton and Valparaiso. He is also a clinical mentor with the Hornbrook Group and serves on the Advisory Board for the Academy of Comprehensive Esthetics as the Fellowship Chairman. You may send questions to his office at 1830 South 11th Street, Chesterton, IN 46304, or email them to drarnold@SmilesByArnold.com. More information on this or any other dental topics can be found at www.SmilesByArnold.com.

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