Taking care of your teeth and gums is about more than maintaining a pretty smile. Your oral health is strongly tied to your overall health, and believe it or not, over 120 serious diseases show symptoms in the oral cavity. Periodontal or gum disease has been linked to several of these full-body illnesses, including rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and even some forms of cancer. Gum disease and these illnesses can cause severe long-term effects.
The Progression of Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease starts out as simple gingivitis. The gum tissue might look slightly reddened and feel a little puffy, and patients might struggle with bad breath. However, if gingivitis is left unchecked, it can develop into mild to moderate periodontal disease, marked by bleeding gums and infections.
As gum disease progresses, oral bacteria invade deeper and deeper underneath the gum tissue, eventually damaging the ligaments that hold the teeth in place as well as the underlying bone. Advanced periodontitis is marked by loose or missing teeth, abscesses, and serious inflammation. Because bacteria can kill healthy tissue, some patients with advanced periodontal disease report that the teeth don’t hurt—even when their teeth are visibly diseased and falling out.
Periodontal Disease and Your Health
The long-term effects of periodontal disease don’t stop with dental health. As bacteria continues to grow, it can leach into your bloodstream and travel throughout your body causing problems. In fact, research has shown that the same oral bacteria that cause tooth decay have been found in the plaques that line your arteries, contributing to heart disease.
Your body reacts to these bacteria by sparking an inflammatory response. For this reason, periodontal disease can aggravate other inflammation-causing illnesses, such as rhuematoid arthritis, respiratory disease, kidney cancer, and even blood cancers like leukemia.
Periodontal disease has also been found to increase blood sugar, which is why it is so troublesome in people who have diabetes. In fact, people with diabetes are more likely to develop periodontal disease, and the mere presence of periodontal disease can signal the development of diabetes later in life–even if patients haven’t shown symptoms of diabetes yet.
Since periodontal disease causes health problems throughout your body, it decreases your overall immune response, which can put you at a higher risk for other infections.
To find out more about how periodontal disease could be affecting your health and how to combat this very real health threat, make an appointment with one of our Westchester periodontists. Our clinicians will take the time to carefully evaluate your teeth, gums, and overall oral health to talk with you about your risks, personal oral health condition, and treatment options.