Periodontal disease, better known as gum disease, is a real pain in the mouth. From sore and bleeding gums in the early stages, to tooth and bone loss in extreme cases, it can wreak havoc on your smile. But did you know that the effects of gum disease can damage more than your dental health?
Scientists have been studying the impact of gum disease has on our overall health, and the results are staggering. From diabetes and stroke, to cancer and pre-term birth, we’re just beginning to see and understand the connections between gum disease and other serious health issues. Here are just a few of the recent findings:
Gum Disease and Diabetes
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, people with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease than people without diabetes – most likely due to the fact that people with diabetes are more susceptible to infections. In fact, periodontal disease is often considered a complication of diabetes, and those who don’t have their diabetes under control are especially at risk.
Not only that, it seems that the relationship between diabetes and periodontal disease goes both ways – periodontal disease may make it more difficult for people who have diabetes to control their blood sugar. Severe periodontal disease can actually increase blood sugar, which puts people with diabetes at increased risk for diabetic complications.
For these reasons, it’s imperative that people with diabetes maintain their dental health, and see their dentist – as well as their doctor – regularly!
Gum Disease and Cardiovascular
While a direct cause-and-effect relationship has not yet been proven, there is strong evidence that gum disease may increase the risk of heart disease. However, we do know that gum disease can affect other existing heart conditions, and patients at risk for infective endocarditis – a bacterial infection in the lining of the heart – may require antibiotics prior to dental procedures.
There is also evidence pointing to a relationship between gum disease and stroke. One study, which examined the possibility of gum disease as a risk factor for stroke, found that people who had suffered a stroke were more likely to have an oral infection than those who had not.
Gum Disease and Cancer
The link between gum disease and various cancers is becoming increasingly strong. Researchers found that men with gum disease were 49% more likely to develop kidney cancer, 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and 30% more likely to develop blood cancers.
Not only that, new studies are starting to link breast cancer to gum disease. Research done at the University of Buffalo observed more than 73,000 post-menopausal women who had never had breast cancer. Of the women, 26.1% were found to have periodontal disease at the beginning of the study. After seven years, researchers found that women with periodontal disease had a 14% higher risk of breast cancer. They theorized that the inflammation from gum disease could affect breast tissue or that oral bacteria that enter the circulatory system could affect the tissue. Given that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s a great time to revisit your brushing and flossing routine.
Gum Disease and Pre-term Birth
Studies have shown that women who had periodontal disease were more likely to deliver pre-term and/or low birthweight babies. Even though these were observational studies which didn’t involve treatment, researchers are starting to shed light on a possible link between gum disease and pre-term birth. We recommend that women who intend to get pregnant should start or continue a good dental hygiene regimen which includes regular dental checkups before and throughout their pregnancy.
Research continues on the possible links between gum disease and arthritis, kidney disease, pneumonia and several other serious health issues. So if you think brushing, flossing, and seeing your dentist is just about having a great smile, think again. It could, literally, be a matter of life or death.
Make an appointment with us today to help keep gum disease at bay!
Dr. Todd Hasty of Shadow Valley Dental Group is a premier dentist serving patients in Maumee, Ohio. At Shadow Valley Dental Group, you can expect gentle, personalized dental care and unmatched dental expertise. We provide comprehensive services including cleanings, fillings, root canals, implants, cosmetic dental services, and more!
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