Millions of American adults currently have some form of gum disease. Not only does gum disease put them at risk of tooth loss and other dental complications, but science now suggests that it may also increase the risk that they develop major systemic health issues. An increasing body of research shows a link between periodontal disease and systemic health.
Here, trusted Rohnert Park dentist Wayne Sutton explains what you need to know about how gum disease can affect overall health.
Gum Disease Linked to Serious Systemic Health Problems
Studies demonstrate that periodontal disease is associated with an increased risk of developing the following health problems:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Adverse pregnancy complications
- Respiratory disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Metabolic syndrome
- Erectile dysfunction
- Cancer (especially oral and pancreatic cancer)
It’s important to understand that research shows an association between gum disease and the aforementioned diseases — not a proven cause-and-effect relationship. In other words, science has not completely verified that one disease is the result of the other. Researchers have plausible theories, though.
Gum Disease and Heart Disease
Studies show that people with gum disease are twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease compared to those with healthy gums. Some experts believe that bacteria in the mouth may enter the bloodstream and travel to the heart’s blood vessels, where it attaches to fatty plaques. This can cause inflammation and elevate the risk of blood clots that trigger a heart attack.
Gum Disease and Respiratory Disease
Other theories linking gum disease to respiratory disease suggest that bacteria in the mouth is inhaled into the lungs, where it inflames the airways and causes conditions like pneumonia.
Gum Disease and Diabetes
The link between gum disease and diabetes seems to be a bit more complicated.
Research suggests that people with diabetes are more vulnerable to diseases like gum disease, because of their elevated glucose levels. The bacteria that causes gum disease thrive on sugars to multiply, making a diabetic’s mouth the perfect environment. Other research suggests that active gum disease makes it difficult for a person with diabetes to control their blood sugar.
Nevertheless, it is essential that people with diabetes find a way to manage their disease.
More Research Needed
Clearly more research is needed to solidify the relationship between gum disease and systemic diseases. In the meantime, it is always a good idea to take measures to prevent gum disease (and other oral health problems). That includes brushing and flossing daily and seeing Dr. Sutton regularly for dental cleanings and exams. If your gums bleed or hurt when you brush or floss, schedule an appointment with Dr. Sutton immediately to have your mouth examined.
Contact our Rohnert Park Dental Team
To learn more about preventing gum disease (and potentially other serious health problems), please contact Sonoma Smiles today.
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(All photos of actual patients)