Gum Disease and Overall Health

Research proves that there is a strong correlation between periodontal disease and other chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis.

Characteristics of periodontal disease are inflammation of the gum tissue, presence of disease-causing bacteria and infection below the gum line.  A host of problematic health issues may occur when infection and bacteria from the mouth spread throughout the body.  By maintaining excellent oral hygiene and treating periodontal disease to reduce its progression, there are health benefits beyond preventing gum disease and bone loss. Periodontal health may help you prevent developing serious medical conditions.

Diabetes and Periodontal Disease

If you or someone you know has diabetes, you already know that it is important for diabetic patients to monitor the status of their diabetes and keep it under control with diet and excercise.  However, you may not know that good oral health not only keeps the mouth and gums free from infection, but also might have a significant impact on the control of diabetes.

Diabetic patients are three-to-four times more likely to develop chronic periodontal infections.  Like any other infection in the body, periodontal infections can impair the ability to process and/or utilize insulin which can make diabetes more difficult to control.  In addition, a periodontal infection may be more severe in a diabetic patient than in someone without diabetes.  These infections may cause increased blood sugar that can increase the periods of time when a diabetic's blood sugar level is too high.  Consequently, it is important for diabetic patients to have their periodontal diseases treated to control or eliminate the infection as one more way to achieve optimal control of their blood sugar levels.

Treatment options for diabetic patients vary depending on the level of control they have over their diabetes and the severity of the existing periodontal damage.  For well controlled diabetic patients, periodontal treatment is similar to a non-diabetic patient's treatment.  In the early stages of periodontal disease, treatment usually involves scaling and root planing.  More advanced cases may require additional treatment combined with antibiotics.

Periodontal therapy has been shown to improve blood sugar levels in diabetic patients, and may decrease their need for insulin.

Heart Disease and Periodontal Disease

When you think about your own risk for cardiovascular disease, many things may come to mind such as fatty foods, lack of exercise, and genetics. However, you may not be aware of another possible factor; namely periodontal disease.  Recent studies suggest that people with periodontitis may have nearly twice the risk of having a fatal heart attack as those without periodontitis.

There are several reasons why periodontal bacteria may affect your heart.  In the presence of gum disease, normal tasks such as chewing or brushing your teeth may allow bacterial poisons to enter the bloodstream and irritate the blood vessel linings and/or enhance the chances that small blood clots will form and clog your arteries.  Another possibility is that the inflammation caused by periodontitis may release chemicals into you blood that contribute to the buildup of fatty deposits inside your heart arteries. In addition, periodontal diseases appear to trigger the liver to make higher levels of the C-reactive protein (CRP) that inflame arteries and cause blood clots that can lead to heart attacks.

Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women.  Good oral hygiene practices and receiving treatment for periodontal problems can help prevent the risk of developing coronary artery disease.

Respiratory Disease and Periodontal Disease

For some time its been know that people who smoke, are elderly, or have other health problems that affect the immune system, are at increased risk for developing respiratory diseases like pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).  These problems can be fatal.

Bacterial respiratory infections can be acquired by the inhalation of tiny bacteria-filled droplets from the mouth and throat into the lungs.  Periodontal diseases, which are chronic bacterial infections, may be a major factor in the development of bacteria that are found in fluid droplets in the lungs.  Once the bacteria are in the lower respiratory tract, they multiply causing infections or worsening of existing lung conditions.  A person with periodontitis may be 50% more likely to develop the respiratory disorder COPD.

Pregnancy, Women's Health Issues and Periodontal Disease

During pregnancy, your body experiences hormonal changes.  These changes can affect many of the tissues in your body, including your gums.  Your gums can become sensitive, and at times may react strongly to the hormonal fluctuations thereby worsening any gum inflammation that you may have.  Without proper oral care and treatment, relatively mild gum problems may turn into a more advanced form of periodontitis.  Peridontitis can contribute to pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia or premature delivery.

Periodontitis and Preeclampsia -    Pregnant women who experience periodontal disease progression during their pregnancies may be twice as likely to develop preeclampsia as a complication of pregnancy.  Preeclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine.  It can put you and your baby at risk for severe complications.  In addition to preeclampsia, periodontitis can trigger increased levels of biological fluids which can induce preterm labor.

Periodontitis and Preterm Low Birth Weight -   Scientific data suggest that women whose periodontal conditions worsen during pregnancy are at significant risk of having a premature or low birth weight baby.  In fact, pregnant women who have periodontitis may be up to seven times more likely to have a baby who is born too early and too small.

Several early studies have  now found that treating periodontitis during pregnancy may significantly reduce the risks of a preterm birth.  Preventing gum problems from developing during the stresses of pregnancy also appears to be important in improving the health of both the mother and baby.

Just as in pregnancy, women may experience hormone level changes during puberty, while taking birth control or during hormone replacement therapy for the treatment of menopause.  These increased hormone levels make the body more sensitive to the presence of bacteria without the patient even knowing it.  Increasing routine home care (brushing and flossing) and making sure to follow up with a dentist or periodontist regularly during these times are particularly important to help control periodontal disease.  During these times of increased circulating hormones, women may discover that their regular routine personal oral hygiene is not sufficient.