Gum disease is the result of unchecked bacterial activities in the mouth causing inflammation of the gums and tissues that surround and support the teeth resulting in eventual tooth loss. But its devastating effects are not just confined to the mouth. Various studies reveal a frightening correlation: a number of health risks may be related to gum disease such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease and certain cancers.
The bacteria in the mouth don’t just stay in the mouth cavity. Bacteria may enter the blood stream via the infected gum and attached themselves to the damaged areas of the heart. When that happens, the inner lining of the heart becomes infected resulting in endocarditis. If it's left untreated, it may cause damage or destroy the heart value.
Those suffering from gum disease are twice as likely to have cardiovascular disease because bacteria in the mouth may cause the hardening of arteries. There are two possibilities. In the first possibility, the bacteria traveling through the blood stream may stick to the fatty plaques already in the blood stream, bulking it up and narrowing the arteries in the process. The other possibility, and the more current of the two, has to do with the body’s response to invading bacteria in the blood stream. It triggers inflammation, thereby causing the blood cells to swell and narrow the arteries.
Does gum disease compound diabetes or does diabetes contribute to gum disease? The chicken-and-egg question remains open to debate but one thing is clear: research shows that gum disease and diabetes are closely linked. Those with gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar level, which may lead to more diabetes complications. Conversely, diabetes makes the body more susceptible to infection, gum included.
Osteoporosis, the disease that leads to bone loss, may also affect the bone in the jaw. When the density of the bone in the jaw decreases, it becomes unstable and loses its ability to support the teeth.
People with gum disease are also more susceptible to respiratory disease as bacteria in the oral cavity may be aspirated into the lungs to cause respiratory complications and chronic lung conditions such as emphysema.
Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, Sjogren's syndrome (an immune disorder), complications in people suffering from HIV/AIDS, even premature birth and low birth weight have been linked to gum disease.
If gum disease increases certain health risks, it is paramount to maintain good oral health by exercising oral hygiene and having regular dental checkups. Call us today for a comprehensive exam.