Your mouth is a gateway to your body. Bacteria that build up on teeth make gums prone to infection, and over time, inflammation and the chemicals it releases eat away at the bone and gums that hold the teeth in place.
Advanced gum disease has been linked to many diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer's, rheumatoid arthritis, erectile dysfunction, and the list just goes on. Can you believe Alzheimer's patients who had gum disease declined in memory ability six times faster than those who did not have gum disease?
How Advanced Gum Disease (Periodontitis) Can Affect Your Overall Health
The mouth is connected to your body, and untreated advanced gum disease (periodontitis) can contribute to other bodily ailments such as diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer's, rheumatoid arthritis, erectile dysfunction and etc., in 2 ways.
1. Direct - The bad bacteria residing in your gums can enter the bloodstream, and the circulating bacteria can have direct effects on certain organs. For example, gum-disease-causing bacteria have been detected in clots (thrombi) from patients with a heart attack (acute myocardial infarction), suggesting a possible role in pathological changes that occur in atheromatous plaques.
2. Indirect - Your body's inflammatory response to the gum disease-causing bacteria. Inflammation is involved in many chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. Chronic gum disease is a source of chronic inflammation. The level of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood is an accepted method of measuring bodily inflammation, and there is strong evidence that CRP levels are elevated in people with advanced gum disease.
Periodontal Disease and Heart Disease
Your gums are full of blood vessels, and your mouth is full of bacteria. That bacteria can enter your bloodstream and trigger inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is one of many things that can cause damage to blood vessels, including those of the heart.
Gum-disease-causing bacteria have been detected in clots (thrombi) from patients with a heart attack (acute myocardial infarction), suggesting a possible role in pathological changes that occur in atheromatous plaques.
However, a dental cleaning should not replace therapy for heart disease. If you have heart disease, you must see your physician/ cardiologist to manage it.
Periodontal Disease and Diabetes
Diabetes and gum disease are linked. Poor glycemic control in diabetes leads to greater gum inflammation. Diabetics with advanced gum disease are linked to a higher risk for kidney problems (macroalbuminuria and end-stage renal disease).
Treatment of advanced gum disease has been shown to decrease your HbA1c by 0.4%. HbA1c is your average blood glucose (sugar) levels for the last 2-3 months. If you have diabetes, the ideal HbA1c level is 6.5% or below.
The higher the HbA1c, the higher your risk of having complications related to diabetes.
Research has shown that the relationship between diabetes and advanced gum disease goes both ways. Advanced gum disease may make it more difficult for people who have diabetes to control their blood sugar, increasing the risk for diabetic complications. Diabetics have restricted blood flow that can weaken the gums and bone - this puts them at greater risk for infection.
People with diabetes should undergo yearly comprehensive periodontal (gum) evaluation. If advanced gum disease is detected, a periodontist can provide treatment to stop the disease and bring the gums to a state of health, preventing additional BONE or TOOTH loss.
However, a dental cleaning should not replace therapy for diabetes. If you are a diabetic, you must see your physician to manage your diabetes.
Periodontal Disease and Pregnancy
The changing hormones brought on by pregnancy can make pregnant women more susceptible to gingivitis, in which gums become swollen and red from inflammation. Advanced gum disease (periodontitis) has also been associated with poor pregnancy outcomes such as pre-eclampsia, preterm birth weight, and low birth weight of your baby.
It has been suggested that the presence of advanced gum disease during pregnancy might have a whole body influence, altering the levels of inflammatory markers such as CRP, IL-6, and TNF-alpha.
It is very important for expectant mothers to recognize the importance of maintaining good gum health, as it supports the mother's overall health and helps a safe pregnancy and healthy baby.
Periodontal Disease and Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer's Disease is a type of dementia that affects an individual's memory, thinking, and behavior and accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases. Alzheimer's Disease is not a normal part of aging, but it is a brain disorder that eventually destroys the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.
The link between advanced gum disease and Alzheimer's could be explained by the spread of inflammatory or infectious agents migrating from the mouth to the brain. Porphyromonas gingivalis, which is a key gum-disease causing bacteria, is significantly found in the brains of patients who have died from Alzheimer's.
Individuals with long-standing advanced gum disease are reported to be at greater risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease.
Periodontal Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease, which means your immune system is attacking your own body's cells by mistake. Over long periods of time, the inflammation can cause bone erosion and joint deformity.
Individuals with rheumatoid arthritis are at an elevated risk of periodontitis compared to healthy individuals. Periodontal disease may be associated with increased rheumatoid arthritis disease activity.
Periodontal Disease and Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction is defined as a consistent inability to attain or maintain an erection sufficient for adequate sexual relations. It has been reported that advanced gum disease contributes to erectile dysfunction by increasing the production of reactive oxygen species in the tissues leading to blood vessel dysfunction and impaired muscle contraction, which is paramount for erections.
Inflammatory markers and advanced gum disease-causing bacteria have also been associated with impaired blood vessel function and muscle activity. Non-surgical periodontal treatment such as professional dental cleaning and deep cleaning has been shown to improve erectile dysfunction severity in experimental studies.