More and more individuals are becoming aware of the mouth body connection. If infection is present in the oral cavity, it is also being carried throughout the body via the bloodstream. Chronic conditions such as respiratory disease, heart disease, and diabetes have been undeniably linked to periodontal disease, a condition characterized by inflamed, red, and bleeding gums. At Advanced Dentistry of Blakeney in Charlotte, NC, we strive to educate patients on this topic. Dr. John M. Pinnix IV and Dr. George A. Betancourt explain why so many serious medical concerns are related to gum health.
Diabetes and Gum Disease
If gum disease is present, it can elevate blood sugar levels. As a result, it can be challenging to regulate the amount of glucose in the blood. This means that patients with periodontal disease are much more likely to develop diabetes.
Several chronic conditions, such as respiratory disease, heart disease, and diabetes, have been linked to periodontal disease.
Patients who already have diabetes are at a much higher risk for gum disease. This is because diabetes actively thickens blood vessels – a condition that prevents the mouth from ridding itself of excess sugars effectively.
Heart Disease and Periodontal Health
Numerous research studies have suggested a link between periodontitis and heart disease, and there are several theories to support this claim. One theory states that the same oral bacteria that cause gum disease attach to the coronary arteries once the strains enter the bloodstream. As a result, patients are at a higher risk for blood clots, narrowing of the arteries, and heart attacks.
Another theory suggests that the inflammation triggered by gum disease leads to excessive plaque buildup. In turn, this exacerbates pre-existing heart conditions and leads to swelling of the arteries. One study performed by the American Academy of Periodontology theorizes that individuals who react to oral bacteria are automatically at a higher risk for heart disease.
Respiratory Disease and Gum Health
When harmful oral bacteria are present, they can be drawn into the respiratory tract during breathing. As a result, the bacteria can colonize, leading to significant infections such as pneumonia, emphysema, and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
Additionally, swelling in the gum tissue can cause inflammation of the lung lining. Oftentimes, patients who experience chronic respiratory issues have a compromised immune system. As a result, bacteria can easily breed beneath the gum line.
How Periodontal Disease Can Affect Pregnancy
Did you know that hormone fluctuations can trigger inflammation and gum disease? Because women experience a surge of hormones during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, they have an increased risk for developing periodontal disease.
Current research suggests that pregnant women with gum disease are more susceptible to preeclampsia and have a higher risk of delivering underweight or premature babies. The bacteria that causes gum disease increase prostaglandin levels, a chemical in the body that induces labor. Therefore, elevated levels can lead to premature labor, resulting in a low birthweight baby. Additionally, gum disease can also lead to an increase in C-reactive proteins, which exacerbate the body’s natural inflammatory response.
Protect Your Smile and Your Health
The relationship between oral health and whole-body health is clear, so it is important to attend all routine dental appointments and practice good brushing and flossing habits at home. If you have diabetes, or if you have a family history of heart or respiratory diseases, we can help you keep harmful bacteria at bay through professional cleanings. To learn more, contact us online or call our office at (704) 543-1102.