Periodontal, or gum disease, may be one of the most common chronic infections in humans. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), half of Americans over the age of 30 have some form of gum disease.
Your gums and underlying bone provide the foundation for your teeth. Harmful bacteria can infect your gums and cause harmful pockets or gaps around your teeth. These pockets, which can be measured by a dental professional, can cause damage to the foundation around your teeth and can lead to other health issues.
Some symptoms of periodontal disease outlined by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research:
- Tender, red, or swollen gums
- Bleeding gums
- Receding gums or longer looking teeth
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Painful chewing
- Bad breath that won’t go away
There is a documented link between gum disease and a variety of other health issues.
Cardiovascular Disease. Studies have shown that the incidence of cardiovascular diseases, heart disease, and stroke is higher in people with periodontal disease. This may be because the bacteria and plaque in the mouth is entering the blood stream and then attaching to the walls of the heart or blood vessels, or even attaching to the blood itself, causing clotting.
Diabetes. There is also a strong link between gum disease and diabetes. The connection between diabetes and periodontal disease appears to be a two-way street; people with diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease, and gum disease in turn complicates diabetes.
Other conditions linked to periodontal disease:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Respiratory tract diseases or infections (like pneumonia and COPD)
- Osteoporosis and bone loss
- Erectile dysfunction
- Premature and underweight birth
- Cancer in men. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, men who have periodontal disease have a higher likelihood of developing cancer of the kidneys (49%), pancreas (54%), or blood (30%).
The main common threads between gum disease and the other health issues listed are weakened immune system and inflammation. While it is not known whether the links between periodontal disease and these other conditions are cause-and-effect or whether there are other factors involved, the evidence still suggests that taking good care of your teeth and gums and getting regular checkups with a dental professional are good ways to reduce the risk of developing severe gum disease, as well as the other diseases that are linked to it.
There are nonsurgical ways to treat periodontal disease. The best way to determine if you are at risk is to make an appointment with Dr. Dawn Gayken, DDS today.