Gum disease can become a serious problem for one’s oral health. Bacterially-infected gums and soft tissues, if left untreated, can deteriorate to the point of tooth loss. But studies point to even larger dangers.
Let’s start with a definition. In its earliest, mildest form, gum disease is known as gingivitis – an inflammation of gum tissue caused by a buildup of plaque (the sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth after eating).
At this stage, gum disease is characterized by red, swollen gums that sometimes bleed. It’s generally reversible by daily flossing and brushing.
Gingivitis, however, can develop into a much more serious form of disease known as periodontitis. Periodontitis occurs when plaque turns into a harder substance at the gum line called calculus or tartar.
When tartar builds up in the v-shaped crevice between tooth and gums (the sulcus), periodontitis can develop and damage the supporting tissues of the tooth, resulting in possible extraction.
Gum disease: The mouth-body connection
Gum disease is inflammatory in nature. Research indicates that there is an association between gum disease and other inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory diseases. There is a mouth-body connection that many dentists and physicians watch closely for the overall improvement of their patient’s health.
Gum disease in those with high risk factors for other inflammatory conditions can likely exacerbate those conditions. For example, the oral bacteria that cause gum disease can be transmitted to heart tissue and lung tissue either through inhalation or through the blood stream. In the heart, this can increase arterial inflammation or attach to fatty plaques in the coronary arteries, leading to heart attack or stroke. People with chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) or pneumonia can see their conditions worsened by the inhalation of oral bacteria originating with gum disease.
…if you suspect gum disease, and you’re at risk for, or have any other type of inflammatory disease, make your condition known immediately.
Diabetics are more likely to have gum disease than non-diabetics due to their elevated risk of infection and compromised ability to recover. But they may also suffer diabetic complications from having gum disease. Severe gum disease can increase blood sugar, affecting already difficult blood glucose management issues in diabetics.
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Pregnant women are at risk of premature birth and low birth weight due to gum disease. Some studies have suggested that pregnant women with periodontal disease are more likely to deliver prematurely at a low birth weight. Women with osteoporosis may also suffer greater oral bone loss when gum disease is present.
Any serious condition should be brought to the attention of your dentist, but if you suspect gum disease, and you’re at risk for, or have any other type of inflammatory disease, make your condition known immediately. Detecting gum disease early is the best bet for avoiding more serious complications and dangers of gum disease down the road.
Have you recovered from gum disease through stepping up your oral health routine? Share a comment about your experience below!