No Joke… Ignoring Your Teeth Could Kill You
The Red Flags of Gum Disease:
- Bleeding gums after brushing your teeth
- Gums bleeding after flossing your teeth
- Aching, shiny red or swollen gum tissue
- Wobbly and/or loose teeth
- Gums receding around the teeth
- Never-ending offensive breath (halitosis)
- Pus around the base of the teeth
- Sharp pain when chewing or biting
- Noticeable changes in your bite
- Spaces that have appeared between teeth
- Food “packing” into your gums
Gum disease, or more accurately, periodontal disease, is a silently-destructive infection involving as many as 500 types of microscopic organisms in your mouth that can also attack your body’s vital systems (heart and circulatory, digestive, lungs, kidneys and liver, plus joints and connective tissue).
The CDC estimates that, over 60,000,000 people in the U.S.A. show signs of periodontal (gum) disease, a chronic bacterial infection that can destroy your gums and the bone that supports the teeth. As periodontal disease progresses, bacterial waste products break down the gum tissue. Soon, your gum tissues are breached and bacteria are free to enter your body’s circulatory system. These dangerous invaders trigger an inflammatory reaction all over your body. For seniors, children and anyone with a weakened immune system, this additional stress could have a cumulative effect on their pre-existing medical conditions.
In addition to gum disease’s inflammatory effect on your internal organs, the disease has also been found to diminish the benefits of any medicine you are receiving for a medical condition.
Periodontal Disease Could Contribute To Type II Diabetes
While diabetics are more likely to have periodontal disease, we didn’t know which came first, the diabetes or the periodontal disease. Two decades ago, researchers at Columbia University’s School of Public Health investigated about 9,000 participants who tested negative for diabetes. By the end of the study, about 800 of those individuals developed diabetes. What they discovered was individuals with elevated levels of periodontal disease had twice the odds of suffering from diabetes within 20 years, even if the person had other risk factors, including:
- being elderly
- being obese
- eating an unhealthy diet.
“These data points match up with the theory that periodontitis contributes to the development of diabetes,” according to Dr. Demmer, associate research scientist in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University’s School of Public Health.
Experts Are Now Recommending Periodontal Therapy To Prevent Heart Disease
By having regular cleanings and periodontal therapy to help prevent periodontal disease, you are decreasing your chances for developing heart attack and heart failure.
The way that gum disease affects your circulatory system is that periodontal disease initiates a domino run of chemical events that increase swelling and inflammation throughout the body. Should the heart and arteries become swollen, it can result in blood clots, bringing about heart attack or stroke. If that weren’t bad enough, bacteria originating from the mouth can also stick to the lining inside the heart, which may cause infective endocarditis.
Over the last ten years, a number of studies have concluded that there is a strong link between periodontal disease and coronary heart disease. One result of unchecked periodontal disease is the loss of teeth. When gum disease gets bad enough, your teeth usually start falling out.
Finnish researchers began to investigate the connection between the number of missing teeth in a person and the rate of diagnosed heart disease in the group. They looked at almost 1500 men aged 45 to 64 years. The researchers discovered that those men with a higher number of missing teeth from chronic periodontal disease also had a higher incidence of heart disease. Their conclusions? Gum disease has been found to increase the risk of heart attack by as much as 25 percent. It increases the risk of stroke by ten times.
The Connection Between Gum Disease And Infections In Your Lungs
According to the Centers for Disease Control, people with chronic periodontal disease experience more bouts with pneumonia. So, seeing Dr. Peck is the first step for diminishing your chances of coming down with pneumonia and getting really sick.
What This All Means To Dentists
Yesterday, dental practice teams focused on saving your teeth with regular cleanings. In the future, we have to expand our focus of care. If you have an inflammatory condition like periodontal disease, it puts you at a higher risk for more serious systemic problems, whether it’s heart problems, diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis. In the future, as we take care of your mouth, we aren’t just saving your teeth, which in itself is a sound objective, we could also be protecting your life as well.
Dr. Peck concludes, “It’s not enough anymore to just be aware of trouble spots in the gum tissue. Given this new research, eradicating gum disease will be a critical action step in maintaining, and improving our patients’ overall health and their enjoyment of life. In fact, it will mean that if our patients’ teeth and gums are not healthy, we can assume that they are not healthy overall.”