Most dentists recommend that you have your teeth checked and cleaned at least twice a year. One reason this is so important is that regular dental exams and cleaning visits are essential in preventing dental problems and maintaining the health of your teeth and gums. In addition to regular checkups and routine cleanings, daily oral care at home can significantly reduce a person’s risk of developing gum disease.
What is Gum Disease?
Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease causing the gums to become red, swollen and to bleed easily. Even though there may be little or no discomfort it is important to treat these symptoms early as gingivitis is fully reversible with professional treatment. If left untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontitis or periodontal disease, which is an advanced form of gum disease resulting in deep inflammation within the supporting tissues of the teeth. This stage of gum infection can lead to normally benign mouth bacteria multiplying out of control and spreading throughout the body – where it can cause or contribute to other chronic health issues.
Periodontal Disease Linked to Chronic Illnesses
Periodontal disease has been associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes and respiratory disease as well as problems in conception and pregnancy. Periodontal disease is so prevalent in America that at least 10 percent of the population is believed to have some form of the disease. Studies reveal that periodontitis contributes to a growing list of diseases including the following chronic disorders.
Scientists have discovered that bacteria known as S. mutan, bacteria which are normally found in the mouth, under certain circumstance can invade heart tissue, causing a dangerous and sometimes lethal infection of the heart known as endocarditis. Normally S. mutan bacteria remains confined to the mouth but sometimes following a dental procedure or even after a particularly enthusiastic flossing session, the bacteria can break loose and enter into the bloodstream. As long as a person has a healthy immune system that bacteria is usually destroyed, but occasionally it will travel to the heart where it colonizes in the tissue of the heart valves. These bacteria can cause endocarditis or inflammation of heart valves — which can be deadly.
Heart Disease, Stroke, Hardening of the Arteries (atherosclerosis)
Once oral bacteria makes its way into the body it can cause inflammation, which in combination with fat deposits can lead to a buildup of plaque in the blood stream obstructing blood flow. It can also lead to a buildup of blood platelets causing dangerous blood clots. These conditions may be responsible for heart attacks, strokes and other serious health conditions.
Conception & Pregnancy
Researchers recently conducted a study following a group of more than 3,000 pregnant women taking part in a Western Australian study called the ‘SMILE Study’. The goal of the study was to analyze information on pregnancy planning and to track pregnancy outcomes .The findings revealed that the participating women who suffered from gum disease took an average of just over seven months to become pregnant – a full two months longer than the average five months that it took women without gum disease to conceive.
It is well known that pregnant women have an increased incidence of gum disease. But did you also know that certain byproducts of bacterial gum infections can cause a woman’s uterus to contract? In addition, pregnant women with gum disease also have a 57 percent incidence of low birth weight babies and a 50 percent greater incidence of premature babies.
Because this population is more susceptible to contracting infections people with diabetes are inherently more likely to develop periodontal disease than their healthier counterparts. In fact, periodontal disease is often considered a major complication of diabetes. Those people who don’t have their diabetic symptoms under control are especially at risk for gum disease.
Not only does diabetes create the perfect situation for periodontal disease, periodontal disease can also influence a person’s diabetes by making it more difficult to control blood sugar levels. Therefore, by controlling periodontal disease in diabetics the risks of heart problems, circulatory problems and complications are greatly diminished.
As a consequence of the disease, people with gum or periodontal infections have high levels of bacteria in their mouths and may be more susceptible to lung conditions or breathing problems such as asthma or emphysema. Gum disease sufferers can inadvertently inhale the bad bacteria colonizing in the mouth directly into the lungs, causing serious respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia. Scientists believe that through the aspiration process, these bacteria can cause frequent bouts of infection in patients with existing breathing problems and also worsen allergic outbreaks.
Osteoporosis and Arthritis
Researchers recently reported measurable improvement in the signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers when resulting infection and inflammation due to periodontal disease was successfully treated. Subjects in one study who suffered from a particularly severe form of rheumatoid arthritis reportedly reduced not only their arthritic pain and number of swollen joints but the degree of morning joint stiffness was also noticeably improved.
Bottom Line on Gum Disease
Since the bacteria rising from gum disease may spread throughout the body to threaten more than just the teeth and gums, it is important to talk to a doctor about risk factors and treat any infected areas of your mouth as soon as possible. Treatment of oral bacteria with proper tooth cleanings, mouth rinses and good oral care at home can reduce the complication of chronic disorders. Contact our office to learn more about how to keep your gums healthy.
For more information:
Microbiologists Discover How Cavity-Causing Microbes Invade Heart https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/story/index.cfm?id=3240
New Study Shows Gum Disease Can Extend The Time That It Takes For A Woman To Become Pregnant https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/230714.php
Healthy Gums May Lead to Healthy Lungs
Dentists Can Identify People with Undiagnosed Diabetes, Columbia Researchers Show