Gum Disease & Your General Health
Research carried out over the last 20 years has shown that periodontal disease is associated with several other diseases.
For a long time it was thought that bacteria was the factor that linked periodontal disease to other disease in the body; however, more recent research demonstrates that
inflammation may be responsible for the association.
Therefore, treating inflammation may not only help manage periodontal diseases but may also help with the management of other chronic inflammatory conditions.
Diabetic patients are more likely to develop periodontal disease, which in turn can increase blood sugar levels and diabetic complications.
People with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease than people without diabetes, probably because people with diabetes are more susceptible to contracting infections. In fact, periodontal disease is often considered a complication of diabetes. Those people who don’t have their diabetes under control are particularly at risk.
Research has suggested that the relationship between periodontal disease and diabetes goes both ways – periodontal disease may make it more difficult for people who have diabetes to control their blood sugar.
Severe periodontal disease can increase blood sugar, contributing to increased periods of time when the body functions with a high blood sugar. This puts people with diabetes at increased risk for diabetic complications.
Several studies have shown that periodontal disease is associated with heart disease. While a cause-and-effect relationship has not yet been proven, research has indicated that periodontal disease increases the risk of heart disease.
Scientists believe that inflammation caused by periodontal disease may be responsible for the association. In patients who have a high susceptibility to gum disease, the immune system can produce small quantities of potent chemicals that flow away from the site of the periodontal disease. These chemicals increase inflammation throughout the body. This is believed to contribute to various side effects, including changes in the blood vessels that can lead to atherosclerosis and fatty arterial build up: increasing a person’s risk for heart attack and/or stroke.
Cardiologists and Periodontists have joined forces to produce a consensus paper , summarising the scientific evidence that links periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease.
The consensus paper recommends that dentists should not only inform their patients of the increased risk of cardiovascular disease associated with periodontal disease, but also assess their risk for future cardiovascular disease and guide them to be evaluated for the major risk factors. The paper also recommends that physicians managing patients with cardiovascular disease examine the mouth for the basic signs of periodontal disease such as significant tooth loss, visual signs of inflammation, and receding gums.
Additional studies have pointed to a relationship between periodontal disease and stroke.
In one study that looked at the causal relationship of oral infection as a risk factor for stroke, people diagnosed with acute cerebrovascular ischemia were found more likely to have an oral infection when compared to those in the control group.
Researchers have suggested that a link between osteoporosis and bone loss in the jaw. Studies suggest that osteoporosis may lead to tooth loss because the density of the bone that supports the teeth may be decreased, which means the teeth no longer have a solid foundation.
Research has found that bacteria that grow in the oral cavity can be inhaled into the lungs to cause respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, especially in people with periodontal disease.
Researchers 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.
Research underway at the moment suggests that a combination of periodontal disease and progressive chronic kidney disease may lead to additional cardiovascular problems.