How Gum Disease can affect your General Health?
Gum Disease and Heart Disease

Gum Disease and General Health

Gum disease is a well known condition that affects the health of the teeth and gums for the majority of the population sometime in their life. Today several researches connect gum disease as a causative or risk factor of other serious health conditions such as:

  • Heart disease – risk of heart attack or stroke
  • Diabetes control
  • Pneumonia and other respiratory diseases
  • Premature, low birth weight babies

How can gum disease affect your general health?

Gum disease is a widespread oral health problem caused by a bacterial infection of the soft and hard tissues of the mouth. Anaerobic bacteria from the periodontal pockets around infected teeth can enter the bloodstream and move to other parts of the body. Inflamed bleeding gums provide an entrance point for pathogenic bacteria into the rest of the body allowing them to cause or worsen health problems by infecting and other organs.

The inflammation caused by gum disease is another potential source of general health complications as it can trigger an inflammatory response affecting the normal operation of the body’s immune system.

The changes in the diet habits and nutrition because of extensive tooth loss due to periodontal disease may also have severe consequences in your general health, especially in the presence of other underlying conditions.

Systemic health problems related to gum disease

Gum disease has been linked as a causative or aggravating factor to a number of systemic diseases and conditions such as heart diseases, diabetes, respiratory diseases and pregnancy complications:

Gum Disease and Heart Disease

The connection of periodontal diseases to heart diseases is probably the most well documented relationship of gum disease to overall health problems.

Poor gum health is related to the development of heart disease and increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Gum disease has shown to contribute to heart related conditions, either by promoting atherosclerosis and arteries narrowing (major cause of coronary heart disease), by triggering an inflammatory response to blood cells, or by directly infecting heart tissues and causing endocarditis.

Preventing gum disease can help to decrease the risk of developing heart disease and having a heart attack or stroke. Learn more about the link between heart disease and gum disease.

Gum Disease and Lung Diseases

In patients with periodontal disease, the bacterial infection may be transmitted to the lungs by bacteria aspiration or inhaling through the airway. Gum disease is considered today as a significant risk factor, increasing the risk of respiratory infections, and potentially worsening respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

A patient with periodontitis might have double the risk of suffering from decreased lung function due to COPD than someone with good gum health. Elderly patients with existing respiratory problems must maintain excellent gum health to prevent worsening of their lung functionality.

Gum Disease and Diabetes

The link between gum disease and diabetes is considered to be stronger than that of gum disease and other systemic diseases. Several studies suggest that there is a 2-way connection between the two conditions.

Severe gum disease and the related bacterial infection may alter the metabolism of the patient which makes it more difficult to regulate the blood sugar levels and control diabetes.

Diabetes reduces the body’s healing ability and its defence against infections, making the diabetic patient more susceptible to severe periodontal disease.

Gum Disease and Pregnancy

Gum disease in pregnant women has been linked to increased risk of preterm delivery, low birth weight babies , preeclampsia (sudden rise of blood pressure late in pregnancy), and fetal loss.

The risk of preterm birth or delivering a low birth weight baby has shown to be up to seven times more in women with severe gum disease than in those with good oral health. This adverse effect is attributed to the early increase in the levels of prostaglandin due to gum disease bacteria that may enter the bloodstream. Another theory suggests that the infection releases toxins that reach the placenta and disrupt fetal development.

The rise on the hormonal levels during pregnancy can cause a specific type of gum disease known as pregnancy gingivitis. Pregnant women must maintain proper daily oral hygiene and regular dental visits to prevent the development of periodontal disease that might have adverse effects on the baby’s delivery.

Practicing good oral hygiene and having regular periodontal evaluations can help you maintain not only better dental health but also better general health. Preventing periodontal disease is even more important for pregnant women or if you have underlying health problems such as diabetes and heart or lung diseases.

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