Gum Disease Can Affect Your Overall Health
The link between oral disease and systemic conditions is the mere fact that periodontal bacteria can enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body, where it can initiate new infections, trigger or exacerbate an inflammatory response. It's important to understand that an infection in the mouth is an infection in the body – and like any infection, it can spread. Additionally, as a result of infection, the body produces certain proteins that circulate in the blood, known as C-Reactive Protein (CRP). These proteins can cause an irritation to blood vessel walls that ultimately leads to artery narrowing. This can subsequently lead to heart attack or stroke.
Systemic medical conditions affected by periodontal
disease and oral bacteria include the following:
Atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is an inflammatory disease. Periodontal disease and atherosclerosis frequently coexist in the same person. Studies have shown that with the treatment of gum disease, both the periodontal inflammation and systemic inflammation may decrease. In fact, scientists have shown that intensive periodontal treatments have led to improvements in arterial health.
Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes. The presence of periodontal disease in pregnant women has been linked to preterm births, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia (a sudden rise in blood pressure late in pregnancy), delivery of low birth weight babies and fetal loss. However, researchers have found a reduction in the number of preterm births among women who received periodontal treatment during pregnancy compared to those who waited until after delivery to receive treatment.
Pneumonia. Periodontal infections can travel into the neck and chest, as well as lodge in the lungs. In fact, research has shown that periodontal bacteria and pathogens are aspirated (breathed in) into the airway of people with severe gum disease, but that regular tooth and gum cleanings may help prevent pneumonia.
Diabetes. Periodontal inflammation is a complication of diabetes. People with diabetes are more prone to infection and severe periodontal disease, meaning they may need to see their dentist more frequently for routine cleanings.
Heart Disease. People with periodontitis, particularly infections causing a high concentration of pathogens in the blood, are at greater risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). In addition, research has connected periodontal disease and related bacteria to cardiovascular disease, stroke, infective endocarditis and other heart conditions.
Luckily, periodontal disease can be preventable. Adding
these habits to your daily routine can help:
Brush your teeth. Brushing after meals helps remove food debris and plaque trapped between your teeth and gums. Don’t forget to include your tongue, bacteria loves to hide there.
Floss. Flossing at least once a day helps remove food particles and plaque between teeth and along the gum line that your toothbrush can’t quite reach.
Swish with mouthwash. Using a mouthwash can help reduce plaque and can remove remaining food particles that brushing and flossing missed.
See a dentist. Get an annual comprehensive periodontal evaluation (CPE) from a dental professional. A CPE looks at your teeth, plaque level, gums, bite, bone structure and other risk factors for periodontal disease. Identifying symptoms of gum disease early is key to protecting your teeth and gums.