Not only can oral problems impact your health, but your mouth can also provide health professionals with indicators of your overall health. Dangerous bacteria and viruses are spread from the mouth through the bloodstream to other areas of the body. Excess bacteria in the bloodstream may lead to disease elsewhere such as heart disease, pneumonia, aspiration pneumonia, poor sugar levels in type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and others.
Gum Disease and Your Health
Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is one of the most common diseases in the US and a significant public health concern. Nearly 65 million Americans are affected. One in two adults over the age of 30 is suffering from gum disease. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth decay and loss of teeth in addition to other serious illnesses. Equally important, many studies have also found that this condition is associated with other chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Causes of Gum Disease
The primary culprits of gum disease are bad habits such as poor oral hygiene. While you may brush and floss regularly, there are still underlying conditions that can cause the disease, or make you more likely to develop it. These include hormonal changes, such as those found during pregnancy. These hormonal changes are the reason it is especially important for pregnant women to have their teeth cleaned. Menopause and menstruation can also cause gum sensitivity.
Medications can also increase your likelihood of developing gum disease. Some medications lessen the amount of saliva produced. Saliva is critical to controlling bacteria levels in the mouth. Some drugs such as anticonvulsant medications can also cause abnormal growth of gum tissue, which in turn traps bacteria and can lead to inflammation of the gums.
Other illnesses also impact your gums, such as HIV, cancer, or other diseases that interfere with the immune system. Patients with diabetes have a particularly high risk of developing gum disease because diabetes affects the body’s inability to use blood sugar correctly.
Bad habits such as smoking also affect the gums ability to repair appropriately and can exaggerate the inflammatory response.
Early Warning Signs
Gingivitis typically advances to the irreversible form of the disease (periodontitis).
When bacteria and plaque build up in the mouth, it causes the gums to become inflamed (swelling, pain, and bleeding). When persons with gingivitis brush their teeth or floss, their gums bleed, and while the gums may be irritated, the teeth are still firmly planted as they should be. Firm teeth might make one think that no serious irreversible damage has occurred such as bone loss or gum recession. However, as gum disease develops and progresses, gum tissue and bone is destroyed irreversibly. This can eventually lead to loose teeth and tooth loss. In fact, gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.
The best way to prevent gum disease from developing is to have regular dental checkups in addition to proper oral hygiene at home. Brush your teeth twice per day and floss at least one time per day. Your diet also greatly impacts your teeth. Click here to learn more about teeth friendly foods.