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A recent study shows that senior citizens with severely inflamed gums are more likely to suffer from unintended weight loss, increasing their risk for health complications. The study was published in the April 2004 issue of the Journal of American Geriatrics.
“Patients should pay attention to these new findings,” Chicago periodontist Dr. Michael Stablein says. “Medical studies have already found strong links between poor oral health and heart disease and stroke. This latest piece just underscores the importance of taking care of your teeth and gums at every age.”
Periodontal disease is an inflammatory disease marked by red, swollen gums that may bleed easily. It is estimated that 80 percent of Americans suffer from it. If left untreated, periodontal disease—more commonly known as gum disease—can lead to tooth loss and receding gums.
The bacteria present in gum disease may trigger blood clots, which can contribute to a heart attack or stroke. Moreover, severe periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss, which puts patients at a greater risk for cardiovascular disease. Studies have found adults who have lost five or more teeth consume easier-to-chew foods with more cholesterol and saturated fat.
Other studies have also found connections between periodontal disease and obesity and the possibility that periodontal disease may worsen osteoporosis.
“Your first defense against periodontal disease is to brush and floss regularly,” Dr. Stablein says.
For those suffering from arthritis, this can be difficult or even painful.
So Dr. Stablein suggests that these people attach their toothbrush to an object they are able to grip, such as a tennis ball, or use an electric toothbrush.
Patients should also speak with their dentist about other dental products designed for arthritis sufferers. Fluoride rinses and gels may be an option.
More than half of all senior citizens do not visit a dentist even once a year—one of the best ways to ensure healthy teeth and gums.
“Regular dental visits are crucial, even for those without any teeth,” Dr. Stablein says. “Many aspects of oral health, such as adjusting dentures and oral cancer screenings, can be handled during routine dental visits.”
For those unable to leave their homes, the Illinois Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped assists patients by matching them up with volunteer dentists. Call (800) 893-1685 for more information.
The Chicago Dental Society, which was established in 1864, has more than 4,100 members in Cook, Lake and DuPage counties, making it the largest local branch of the American Dental Association.
A tradition of working for the dental profession. The Chicago Dental Society was organized in 1864 and incorporated in 1878. The objective of the Chicago Dental Society is to encourage the improvement of the health of the public, to promote the art and science of dentistry and to represent the intrest of the members of the profession and the public that it serves.
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