What is Gum Disease?

There are more bacteria in your mouth right now than there are people on Earth. If those germs settle into your gums, you’ve got gum disease!

• Gum disease is the #1 most prevalent inflammatory disease in the world.
• 90% of gum disease goes untreated.
• Research has confirmed that gum disease is directly connected to the top two killers worldwide: heart disease and stroke.
• We are also seeing scientific clues pointing to other diseases being associated with gum disease, such as diabetes, kidney disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Gum disease causes chronic inflammation. While inflammation initially intends to have a protective effect, untreated chronic inflammation can lead to problems in the affected tissues, and therefore to more severe health complications.

Some risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing periodontal disease:
• All forms of tobacco use
• Systemic diseases such as diabetes.
• Some types of medication such as steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers and oral contraceptives.
• Poor fitting bridges, crowns and fillings.
• Crooked teeth.
• Defective fillings.
• Pregnancy.

Warning signs of periodontal disease:
• Gums that bleed easily and frequently.
• Red, swollen, tender gums.
• Gums that have developed  spaces or “pockets” between the tooth and gum.
• Persistent bad breath or odd taste.
• Teeth that have become loose.
• Changes in your natural bite or the way your teeth fit together.
• Changes in the fitting of existing partial dentures.

People with Diabetes are 2x Times More Likely to Develop Serious Gum Disease

Emerging research also suggests that the relationship between serious gum disease and diabetes is two-way. Not only are people with diabetes more susceptible to serious gum disease, but serious gum disease may have the potential to affect blood glucose control and contribute to the progression of diabetes. Research suggests that people with diabetes are at higher risk for oral health problems. People with diabetes are at an increased risk for serious gum disease because they are generally more susceptible to bacterial infection, and have a decreased ability to fight bacteria that invade the gums.

Further reading: Diabetes and the Periodontal Patient

Connection between gum disease and heart diseaseGum-Heart Disease Connection

Inflammation is a major risk factor for heart disease, and periodontal disease may increase the inflammation level throughout the body. While additional research will help identify the precise relationship between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease, recent emphasis has been placed on the role of inflammation – the body’s reaction to fight off infection, guard against injury, or shield against irritation. Patients should be aware that by maintaining periodontal health, they are helping to reduce harmful inflammation in the body, which has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

A variety of studies have established that inflammation and bacteria in the mouth and gums can find its way into the bloodstream, leading to thickening of the arteries and increasing the risk of a heart attack. Fatty plaques can also build up on the inside of the vessels can break off, go to the brain and cause a stroke.

One recent study published in the British Medical Journal analyzed data from over 11,000 adults and determined that participants who reported brushing their teeth less frequently had a 70% increased risk of heart disease versus those who brushed twice daily.

Brush Your Teeth to Prevent Heart Attacks (ABC News)