Gum Disease Affects all Your Body
According to the NIH, bleeding gums affect half of all adults over the age of 30, but many people believe that gums that bleed when brushed or flossed are normal. Bleeding gums are not normal. Redness, swelling, bleeding or receding gumline are all symptoms of gum disease, an infection that can affect your entire body. Dental plaque is the root cause of gum disease.
Plaque is a sticky, colorless substance that forms after meals, snacks or sugary drinks. Your bodyâ€™s immune system attacks the bacteria that live in plaque and creates the inflammation that is a hallmark of gum disease. Gums swell and bleed, which are both signs of gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease.
As the condition progresses, the gums pull away from teeth and pockets of infection develop along the gumline. The infection drives deep into the oral cavity and attacks the supporting structures of the teeth. As the condition spreads, the bacteria can enter your blood stream and create body-wide inflammation. Extensive research has been conducted and has linked gum disease to many different health conditions.
Consequences of Periodontal Disease:
Heart disease is one of the best-known conditions linked to gum disease. Those who have gum disease are twice as likely to also suffer from atherosclerosis, which is characterized by a fatty buildup in the coronary arteries. The exact nature of the relationship between the conditions is unknown, but one theory is that oral bacteria enter the bloodstream through the inflamed gums and attach to the plaque in the blood vessels. The inflammation associated with gum disease is also associated with higher levels of C-reactive protein in the blood, which has been linked with a dramatically increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Diabetes has also been linked to gum disease. Those who have either type of diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease, particularly if their diabetes is poorly controlled. Diabetics often have compromised immune systems, which leaves them unable to easily combat such infections as gum disease. Gum disease may also increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Women tend to be at a unique risk from gum disease thanks to their hormones. Puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause all include dramatic hormone fluctuations that can increase blood circulation and cause gums to become sensitive to irritants and oral bacteria. Post-menopausal women with gum disease may be at an increased risk for developing osteopenia or osteoporosis. Pregnant women with gum disease are estimated to be seven times more likely to suffer a preterm birth. Low birth weight babies and miscarriage are also more common among women suffering from gum disease.
Gum disease has also been linked to such conditions as ulcerative colitis, Crohnâ€™s disease, poor nutrition and arthritis and is believed to either aggravate or perpetuate each condition. Although the exact relationship between oral infections and these systemic diseases is unclear, the research revealing the link is clear. Maintaining a lifetime of good dental health can help you not only enjoy an enhanced smile and improved dental functionality but also an overall enhanced quality of life.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that four out of five American adults has some degree of gum disease. However, gum disease is highly preventable, treatable and even reversible in its earliest stages. Good dental hygiene that includes twice-daily brushing, daily flossing and biannual professional cleanings and dental checkups can help you keep your teeth clean, your gums healthy and catch early signs of problems so that you and your dentist can prepare a treatment program as necessary.