I recently blogged about how one of the ways to avoid gum disease and tooth loss is to eat a healthy diet (Healthy Diets Equal Healthy Teeth And Gums). Now I’m going to look at the subject from a different angle – how for a healthy body you need healthy gums.
Gum disease is often viewed as a cosmetic problem; no one wants gum disease because it makes your breath smell bad and can cause unsightly tooth loss. However, although these side affects are good enough reasons to do your best to prevent it, there can be some more serious consequences of developing gum disease.
Medical Conditions Linked To Gum Disease
There is mounting evidence that severe gum disease (periodontitis) can cause complications with other chronic medical conditions. While it’s still unclear how gum disease can impact adversely on diseases that affect other areas of the body, the following hypotheses are informing research into this area:
- The bacteria in the mouth that causes gum disease enters the bloodstream and the cumulative effect of exposure because of untreated periodontal disease causes other conditions to be exacerbated.
- A link between inflammation and infection in one area of the body and its impact on disease affecting other areas of the body has already been established.
- Other factors, such as smoking, combined with gum disease increase the risk of certain diseases developing.
In many cases the link between gum disease and other medical conditions operates in several ways, having an existing medical condition can increase your risk of developing gum disease; gum disease makes the symptoms or managing the condition worse; and people with a higher risk of developing a specific medical condition see their risk increase if they have gum disease.
The following chronic conditions have been linked to periodontitis:
Diabetes: Patients with diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease, possibly because they are more susceptible to infections. Severe periodontitis can also increase blood sugar and this makes managing diabetes harder and causes further complications for patients.
Heart Disease: Research shows that gum disease can increase the risk of heart disease and make existing heart conditions worse. Studies also link periodontitis to stroke, with patients suffering a severe stroke more likely to have gum disease than those that don’t.
Osteoporosis: Patients with osteoporosis may find that their outcomes if they develop severe gum disease are more likely to result in tooth loss than those who do not have the condition. This could be because of decreases in bone density caused by osteoporosis accelerating bone loss in the jaw.
Rheumatoid arthritis: Research has also linked severe gum disease with severe rheumatoid arthritis, finding the more tooth loss due to periodontitis the greater the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (tender and swollen joint count).
Pneumonia and Respiratory Diseases: Bacteria in the mouth that causes gum disease can be aspirated into the lungs (breathed in) and this has been linked to respiratory diseases such as pneumonia.
Cancers: As well as breast cancer (see my blog on this here) researchers have also found that men with gum disease were 49% more likely to develop kidney cancer, 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and 30% more likely to develop blood cancers.
Alzheimer’s: In a recent UK study the presence of gum disease was associated with a six-fold increase in the rate of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients over the six-month period of the study.
Fertility: Researchers in Australia found that women with gum disease took longer to conceive than those that didn’t, and other studies have flagged a possible link between gum disease and miscarriage.
For more information and help with oral care if you, a family member or friend have any of these conditions, click on the relevant link below:
As more research increasingly points to strong links between periodontal disease and other chronic medical conditions, we all need to take better care of our teeth and gums.
It is clear that gum disease plays a bigger part in our overall health than the cosmetic aspect of losing teeth or suffering from bad breath. It could potentially make us all more susceptible to certain diseases and cause complications for those with pre-existing conditions.
For more information on gum disease and its treatment click on this link Effective Ways To Cure Gum Disease (Gingivitis). However, if you think you may have gum disease and are worried about it affecting existing conditions please see your dentist and get a diagnosis straightway.
Any questions? Leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to reply in between appointments!