Periodontal disease (gum disease) is a widespread problem. 50% of American adults over the age of 30 have a form of gum disease, and for people over 65, the rate is 70%. Gum disease is easy to prevent, and it starts with a visit to your dentist. In our Kennewick, WA office, we offer periodontal preventative treatment.
If you read our previous post, we talked about how gum disease works, the types of gum disease, and common risk factors.
In this post, we’ll talk about the links between gum disease and other serious diseases, and what you can do at home to avoid gum disease.
Gum Disease and Systemic Diseases
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, gum disease has been shown to be linked to systemic diseases. Systemic diseases are those ailments that effect multiple areas of the body, or the entire body.
Inflammation: a Possible Missling Link?
Inflammation is part of the body’s natural immune system, but recent studies show that the chronic inflammation caused by gum disease might be a major contributor to systemic disease.
The inflammation most people are familiar with is the kind you can see and feel: pain, redness and swelling. These occur when the body’s systems work together to fight an infection. Usually the body tightly controls the mechanisms that cause inflammation, but it can become chronic. When this happens, inflammation causes the destruction of tissues. Gum disease can cause chronic inflammation. Recent studies indicate a link between this inflammation and other diseases in the body.
Diabetes effects many parts of the body, and the mouth is no exception. People who have diabetes are much more likely to have gum disease, and gum disease is probably best understood as a complication of diabetes. Like other infections, gum disease can also make diabetes more difficult to manage.
Those suffering from diabetes have thickened blood vessels, slowing down the delivery of nutrients to the body’s systems, as well as slowing down the body’s ability to “flush away” waste. In this weakened state, the gums become vulnerable to the infections that lead to gum disease, and the resulting inflammation plays a role in the destruction of the tissues and bone that hold the teeth in place.
When you have diabetes, glucose levels in the body are higher. This means that normal fluids in the mouth (such as saliva) have a higher level of glucose. As we discussed in the last post, bacteria feed on this glucose: the more glucose, the more bacteria.
Being a diabetic doesn’t mean you will get gum disease, but it does mean that you’re more likely to develop it. The best thing to do is to be vigilant and control your sugar level correctly, in addition to regular oral hygiene (brushing and flossing). Those with diabetes that is under control are no more likely than non-diabetics to develop gum disease.
Once again inflammation (caused by gum disease) is a likely contributor to heart disease, according to the latest research. Exactly how this works is not yet known; gum disease may also worsen the symptoms of heart disease.
Stroke victims are more likely to have gum disease as well.
A link between osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bone density, may also be linked to gum disease. As the bacteria deepens the pockets that occur in the gums in periodontitis, eventually they begin to eat into the bone. As a result, osteoporosis sufferers are at an increased risk for tooth loss as a result of gum disease.
Respiratory diseases, can be caused by gum disease. The bacteria infecting the mouth can be “breathed into the lungs”. Because of this, it is possible that people with gum disease have a much higher likelihood of developing pneumonia, for example.
The link between cancer and gum disease is statistical, and as in the other diseases we’ve discussed, inflammation appears to play a role.
Men with gum disease are:
- more likely to develop blood cancers
- 49% are more likely to develop kidney cancer
- 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.
If you suffer from any of the diseases we’ve discussed, you should make the prevention of gum disease a priority. For those with diabetes, management of your symptoms and blood sugar are crucial, in addition to these simple steps:
Brush thoroughly after each meal: The glucose in your mouth is the food source for the bacteria that can cause gum disease. Reducing the presence of glucose by brushing after each meal can do a great deal of good.
Flossing: For some reason flossing is a difficult habit for some people to pick up. However, it is critical for the management of gum disease and the inflammation that may be linked to the other diseases we’ve talked about. Floss well, and floss carefully.
Use Mouthwash: Mouthwash will help eliminate glucose and bacteria that you couldn’t reach while brushing and flossing.
Make an appointment with your dentist!
If you’re in the Kennewick, WA area, you can click here to make an appointment with us, or you can call our office directly at 509-591-0515.
We provide periodontal disease prevention treatment, and work with each patient to create a plan of action to help keep gum disease at bay.