By many accounts, gum disease is the most common disease among Americans, affecting close to 80 percent of adults to some degree. In its more advanced stages, gum disease can lead to tooth loss and the decay of jawbone tissue, requiring multiple types of restorative dentistry. But even in milder forms it can carry negative lifelong effects. In fact, increasing evidence suggests a relationship between gum disease and other, more serious conditions throughout the body.
By keeping your gums healthy, you not only preserve your oral health, but potentially your overall health as well. Learn the various links between gum disease and other systemic diseases, and continue to take care of your gums via hygiene at home and at our Corpus Christi dental practice.
Effects of Gum Disease on Oral Health
In its early stages, gum disease is seen as gingivitis, an inflammation of gum tissue. At this point, patients may experience gums that are reddened, overly sensitive, prone to bleeding during brushing or flossing, as well as a receding gum line and bad breath. As gum disease spreads, pockets of infection may develop between the gums and roots of teeth, causing gums to pull away from teeth and possibly causing infection to spread to nearby roots or bone. If infection does develop within the bone tissue, it progresses into a more advanced form called periodontitis. This results in the inflammation and gradual decay of the jaw, ultimately resulting in tooth loss and changed facial structure if left untreated.
Effects of Gum Disease on Overall Health
Although gum disease begins in the mouth and primarily remains there, numerous studies support the claim that the bacteria responsible for gingivitis and periodontitis can travel elsewhere through the bloodstream and simple inhalation. As a result, there is a strong correlation between the presence of gum disease and the following conditions:
- Heart disease: Cardiovascular and circulatory problems are commonly linked with gum disease. Patients with a history of gum disease also tend to be at a greater risk of hardened arteries and therefore stroke.
- Respiratory diseases: If the bacteria from gum disease travel to the lungs, it can weaken their health and make them more susceptible to various diseases such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Patients who have a more prominent history with gum disease and who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis tend to experience a quicker and more severe onset of symptoms.
- Certain cancers: Patients with gum disease have a statistically more significant chance of developing certain cancers. The risk of kidney cancer is increased by 49 percent, while pancreatic cancer is increased by 54 percent in men. The risk of lung cancer and blood cancers are also notably increased for all patients.
- Diabetes: Patients who suffer from gum disease and diabetes may have a more difficult time controlling both. The presence of gum disease can negatively impact a patient’s blood sugar levels, while diabetes lowers the efficacy of a patient’s immune system, thereby making disease harder to fight.
- Complications during pregnancy: Pregnant women should be especially careful with any sort of disease or health condition. Specifically, women who suffer from gum disease are more likely to have a premature birth or a baby with low birth weight.
Treating Gum Disease
If you have a relatively mild form of gingivitis, you may be able to adequately control it through simple hygiene practices. Brush after meals with fluoride toothpaste, floss daily, and consider an ADA-approved mouthwash for maximum effect. It is also helpful to engage in healthy dietary habits such as abstaining from snacking and sugary foods, and drinking plenty of water with meals.
If gum disease has progressed into visible pockets of infection, a deep cleaning may be necessary to restore your periodontal health. By cleaning out bacteria and plaque from beneath the gums and polishing the roots of your teeth, the dentist can curb the spread of disease and promote healing along the gum line. In severe cases of infection, incisions may be made in the gums to pull them further back for treatment via flap surgery. Even patients suffering from advanced periodontitis can restore the health of their teeth and gums through the right professional treatment, so consult your dentist at any point if you believe gum disease may be present.
Schedule Your Next Professional Cleaning
In addition to at-home hygiene, professional cleanings and exams are a necessary step toward improving your periodontal and dental health. Schedule your next cleaning with us to preserve your oral and overall health.