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Can gum disease affect other parts of the body?

By September 28, 2018

There is a real link between the health of your mouth and your overall health. It is believed that the connection of gum disease (also called periodontal disease) and other systemic health issues are closely connected.

For instance, scientists have linked gum disease with serious conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pregnancy complications, respiratory problems, and some studies have shown a higher risk for certain types of cancer to periodontal disease. There are more than 120 conditions that have been associated with dental problems.

The most common type of gum disease is chronic gingivitis, which affects approximately 90% of the adults in this country. It is reversible with professional and regular home dental care. The more severe form is periodontitis which can destroy the gum tissues supporting your teeth and ultimately lead to tooth loss. It is a silent disease, most of the time the only symptoms are persistent bad breath, swollen gums, or gums that bleed when flossing.

Gum disease is caused by the sticky bacterial plaque that builds up on teeth. When left unchecked, these bacteria can cause deep pockets to form. Your body is a contained system. What affects one part of the body often affects other parts of the body as well. 

The correlation between gum disease and diabetes is the strongest.  There is good evidence people with severe periodontitis may have higher levels of HbA1C, a form of glucose-linked hemoglobin that is used to measure how well diabetes is controlled.  The relationship between gum disease and diabetes goes both ways because periodontitis may affect blood glucose control, and people with diabetes may be more susceptible to bacterial infection, leading to gum disease.

The connection between gum disease and your heart is backed up by a lot of research that supports the association, but so far, the evidence is not yet conclusive. The active bacteria in the mouth have access to the whole body via the bloodstream. The plaque deposits from the bacteria are the same types of plaque found in the arterial walls of heart disease sufferers. Also, the chronic infection caused by the bacteria in the mouth can cause chronic inflammation throughout the entire body.  This inflammation can be a gateway to a host of other complications leading to serious conditions.

Preventing periodontitis or the lesser gingivitis from spiraling out of control is possible with good oral hygiene habits which include visiting your dentist regularly, brushing and flossing daily, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

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