Your mouth and body are connected in more ways than you may realize.
Also called gum disease, this is a serious infection that can cause severe damage to your gums. If left untreated, it can also lead to jawbone loss and deterioration. By brushing, flossing, and following a solid oral care routine, you can help keep periodontitis at bay. But did you know there are other benefits to prioritizing your gum health?
Today, we’re sharing how closely connected your mouth is to the rest of your body and exploring the ways periodontal disease is linked to other physical conditions that may ail you.
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is a chronic infection that affects the soft tissue of your gums. Without proper treatment, it can invade the jawbone that surrounds your teeth and holds them in place. Over time, this can cause your teeth to loosen and can tamoxiver even lead to tooth loss.
While it might be one of the most common dental health concerns around, gum disease is very preventable and usually occurs as a result of poor oral hygiene. As long as you brush at least two times a day, floss daily, and attend regular dental checkups, you should be able to avoid this condition. If you do notice any symptoms, you can immediately treat the early signs that may occur.
Symptoms of Periodontitis
Are you concerned that you may have periodontitis? A few of the most common, telltale signs to look out for include:
- Swollen or inflamed gums
- Gums that are tender when touched
- Bright red or purple-hued gums
- Gums that easily bleed
- Bad breath
- Signs of blood on your toothbrush or in the sink after brushing
- Loose teeth or teeth loss
- Receding gumline
- Pain while chewing
If you notice any of the above symptoms, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.
While gum disease is usually a sign of poor oral hygiene, it can also be associated with other health concerns. Next, let’s take a look at some of the strongest connections between your gum health and your overall physical health.
Gum Disease and Diabetes
According to the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), people who suffer from diabetes are at a greater risk of developing periodontitis. In fact, 22% of people diagnosed with diabetes also have periodontal disease. Why is this the case?
Most researchers believe the connection lies in a diabetic person’s increased susceptibility to contracting infections. Especially if your diabetes is poorly managed or not under control, this risk can increase exponentially. Unless your blood sugar levels roids.vip are carefully monitored, you could experience gum health issues.
Moreover, the connection is a two-way street. Not only can diabetes trigger an onset of gum disease, but the presence of gum disease can also lead to further diabetic complications.
For instance, when your gums are infected, it can make it more difficult to safely control and monitor your blood sugar. This is because severe periodontal disease can cause your blood glucose to spike, requiring your body to function with a high level of blood sugar for increased periods of time.
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty tasting food
- Delays in oral wound healing time
- Higher risk of developing cavities
- Inflamed, bleeding gums (gingivitis)
- Increased susceptibility to oral infections
- Premature tooth eruption (in children)
Periodontal Disease, Heart Disease, and Stroke
While your gums are inflamed and achy, you might not think too much of your heart health. Yet, studies show these two entities are very closely connected.
Most of the time, the inflammation associated with gum disease is identified as a trigger for heart disease and stroke. Researchers believe the bacteria present in gum disease are capable of traveling throughout your body. As they do so, they can cause your heart vessels to become inflamed and your heart valves to become infected.
When this type of inflammation occurs, it can catalyze a number of cardiac events, including:
- Heart attacks
- Other sudden vascular events
This risk is even greater in persons who have high cholesterol. Researchers have found oral bacteria within the fatty deposits of people who suffer from atherosclerosis, which is a condition that causes plaque to amass on one’s arteries. Without treatment, these deposits can thicken and narrow the arteries.
In some cases, the deposits can even break loose and clog the arteries, both of which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Although the connection can be made, it’s important to realize there are various sources of inflammation within your body. This can make it difficult for healthcare practitioners to directly link your heart condition to the condition of your gums.
At the same time, periodontitis can also exacerbate any existing symptoms you’re feeling as a result of heart disease or any other heart condition. As such, most dentists will prescribe antibiotics for patients who are at risk for infective endocarditis, or heart valve infection, before performing any kind of dental procedure. If this step is required, your dentist should work closely with your cardiologist to determine the best route forward.
Periodontal Disease and Pregnancy
You know the importance of eating the right foods and getting enough rest during pregnancy, but you can’t forget to keep up with your oral care routine!
Both the AAP and the European Federation of Periodontology (EFP) have established a connection between periodontal disease and an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, including preterm or low-birth-weight babies. In some cases, it can also lead to preeclampsia, a condition that is characterized by high blood pressure and damage to other organ systems, such as your liver or kidneys. If you also suffer from diabetes, this risk can be even greater.
Why are these connections present? There are a few reasons researchers believe periodontitis can lead to prenatal and postnatal complications. First, periodontal disease can elevate the prostaglandin levels of an expectant mother, especially if the condition is severe. Prostaglandin is a compound found in one of the oral bacteria strains most closely associated with periodontitis. As it’s known to be labor-inducing, it can lead to premature birth or low birth weight in some babies.
Then, there is the potential elevation of your C-reactive protein levels. Also linked to heart disease, C-reactive protein is known to cause preeclampsia and premature birth in babies. If you have a periodontal infection, your C-reactive protein levels will elevate, which can trigger allover inflammation.
Finally, there is the issue of bacteria. If you have gum disease, bacteria are allowed to colonize in your gum pockets. From there, it can easily travel throughout your bloodstream. As it does, it can affect other areas of your body, which can alter the outcome of your pregnancy. This bacteria can even colonize in your coronary arteries and internal mammary glands.
Periodontal Disease and Osteoporosis
Bone health and gum health go hand in hand. This is why there is often a connection made between periodontal disease and osteoporosis. The latter is a condition characterized by an imbalance between bone formation and subsequent resorption. It can cause the bones in your body to become brittle and weak. So, where is the link to gum disease?
Both conditions have a central element of bone loss or bone resorption. On its own, osteoporosis is characterized by bone mass reduction, while periodontal disease leads to the resorption of the alveolar bone. While a direct link is still being researched, experts believe the onset of osteoporosis can trigger or exacerbate periodontal disease.
This is especially true in older men and older women who have experienced menopause. In periodontal disease, the bone loss occurs around the teeth, while it’s more systemic in osteoporosis.
If you’re in the early stages of osteoporosis, your dentist might be the first medical professional to notice, as there will often be accompanying signs of tooth loss or gum disease.
Osteoporosis causes your bones to lose density, and this includes those in your jaw. If this happens, it could leave your gums susceptible to periodontal bacteria and put you at an increased risk of experiencing a fracture or permanent tooth loss. In addition, it can also affect the fit and position of your dentures, making eating and speaking more difficult.
With age, one experiences bone loss at a drastically quicker rate. Many times, this can quicken or aggravate the breakdown of periodontal tissue. In addition to age, other shared risk factors for both conditions include:
- Hormonal shifts
- Alcohol or tobacco use
- Calcium levels
- Nutritional status
- Immune deficiency
- Vitamin D levels
Periodontal Disease and Respiratory Disease
You breathe through your mouth, so it’s logical that your respiratory health would be connected to your oral health, and it’s true.
Researchers have discovered a link between the onset of certain respiratory infections and the presence of periodontal disease. Some of the most common infections include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, acute bronchitis, and pneumonia.
Some of the leading causes of death in the United States, these infections develop when bacteria from your upper throat travels into your lower respiratory tract through inhalation. This journey is made possible due to the anatomical continuity that exists between your lungs and your oral cavity.
This immediate connection makes it possible to breathe, but it can also cause adverse effects. In addition to worsening respiratory conditions, it can easily turn your mouth into a gathering place for respiratory pathogens, which can aggravate existing symptoms of gum disease.
Some oral disorders, including periodontal disease, can lead to this condition. For instance, you could aspirate oral periodontopathic bacteria into your lungs unknowingly, which can lead to aspiration pneumonia. Or, your teeth could act as reservoirs for respiratory pathogens to colonize, which can trigger a subsequent condition known as nosocomial pneumonia.
At the same time, both periodontal and respiratory conditions are often marked by significant inflammation. Both conditions cause your body’s natural inflammatory process to overreact, which can destroy important connective tissue. This process is especially prevalent in conditions like, emphysema and COPD, and can help explain the link between gum disease and those conditions.
In most people, this negative effect is blocked by sophisticated immunological mechanisms that prevent oral bacteria from reaching the lower respiratory tract. For healthy patients, this means their distal airway and lungs remain sterile, even in the presence of a heavy load of oral bacteria.
However, it isn’t impossible. In fact, there are three mechanisms by which periodontal bacteria could be allowed to enter the rest of your body. These include:
- Aspiration of the oral pathogens into the lungs
- Colonization of dental plaque, followed by aspiration
- Colonization of the upper airway by periodontal pathogens
The Importance of Healthy Teeth and Gums
You’ve long understood the importance of establishing a great oral hygiene routine. Yet, these connections between periodontitis and whole-body health should make you take a closer look at your approach to dental care.
Rather than feeling discouraged and overwhelmed, use this data and turn it into a powerful starting point. While there are restorative dentistry services available to help you reverse signs of gum disease, prevention is always the best measure.
By brushing, flossing, and visiting your dentist for routine appointments, you can identify and reverse the earliest signs of periodontal disease before the condition worsens. This way, you can stay on top of your overall health and help your loved ones do the same.
To learn more or schedule an appointment, reach out to our office and we’ll take care of the rest.