Gum disease is quite a common condition, one that affects millions of people — many of whom aren’t even aware of it. Symptoms may go unnoticed or simply be cast aside until you visit a dentist’s office, and this can have an impact not only on your oral health, but also on your entire overall health.
At Bright Side Dental, our general dentistry services in Michigan include numerous areas that will help prevent the onset or spread of gum disease in both parents and children. In addition, we’ll advise any family dealing with gum disease on the importance of addressing it immediately — untreated gum disease can be a major risk, including to several overall health areas that can even threaten your life if you aren’t careful. Here are some of the largest risks you’re taking if you leave gum disease untreated.
Chronic inflammation is a big issue for many people, and it’s an element that links heart disease to gum disease. People who have poor dental hygiene and gum disease are over three times more likely to develop heart disease. Researchers believe this is due in part to the release of inflammatory cytokines and growth factors, which — left unchecked and untreated — will impact how your body reacts with issues such as plaque buildup in blood vessels.
Gum disease also negatively impacts blood pressure and the way your body deals with LDL cholesterol. In addition, gum tissue can tear and bleed more easily due to the inflammatory response that’s occurring, which damages the gums and causes even more inflammation in your mouth — all of this places you at a greater risk for developing coronary heart disease.
In fact, per researchers at PAROKRANK, gum disease increases an individual’s risk of heart attack by a whopping 49%. That means you’re almost 1.5 times more likely to suffer a heart attack if you have gum disease than if you don’t, a startling number that reveals the connection between these two.
There’s no doubt that diabetes is becoming more widespread, and it’s an issue that places even greater risk in people who already have gum disease. According to research from the Journal of Periodontology, individuals with diabetes and advanced forms of periodontal disease are at a greater risk of developing all-cause mortality.
Periodontal disease is defined as any tooth or gum infection that isn’t treated immediately, and the inflammation it causes elevates your risks for developing diabetes. Fortunately, early detection of gum disease can help you prevent it from spreading further to reach this point.
Some of this is because of the way gum disease increases blood sugar levels. This is part of the body’s defense mechanism to gum disease, as it senses the infection and increases blood glucose levels to help fight or reduce swelling. Unfortunately, this can lead to diabetes after an extended period of time.
Another condition that’s on the rise in recent years is Alzheimer’s, and there’s a connection between this neurological disease and gum disease. Researchers at the University of Central Lancashire in England found that oral health impacts Alzheimer’s, partly due to inflammation caused by gum disease.
Gum disease inflames the body more than regular plaque buildup would, which means it will impact levels of A-beta proteins in your brain — something that increases Alzheimer’s risk. This is further exacerbated by the fact that inflammation may contribute to the destruction of neurons and nerve cells as well as plaque buildup, which can lead to Alzheimer’s over time.
In addition, the bacteria P. Gingivalis, found typically in gum disease and gingivitis patients, is also found in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients. While more research is required, this does show a link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s that is worth paying attention to.
Another bacteria-related issue with gum disease is the presence of Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, a bacteria that’s found in both gum disease and those with rheumatoid arthritis. This bacteria enters the blood stream and triggers inflammation, which can cause rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups.
The severity of your gum disease may be related to the number of times you’ve suffered from stiffness or pain in your joints, according to research published in The British Medical Journal. In addition, those with severe periodontal disease have been found to have a higher level of one type of white blood cell, which indicates inflammation.
In this way, gum disease may be an indicator for rheumatoid arthritis as well as other diseases and conditions that cause joint pain and stiffness — and it can serve as a warning sign that something isn’t right in your body.
Pneumonia and Other Respiratory Conditions
Pneumonia, along with COPD and asthma, are another group of health conditions that are affected by chronic inflammation. The inflamed airways that result from gum disease can cause other respiratory issues such as pneumonia, which can turn into a significant health risk for some.
According to research in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, chronic inflammation is related to a higher risk of pneumonia. In this case, individuals suffering from periodontal infections were at a greater risk for pneumonia because of the inflammation.
In fact, those who have gum disease are four times more likely to also suffer from COPD and twice as likely to suffer from asthma than those without it, according to research in Lung India. While these conditions can be triggered by other factors, inflammation plays a significant role and may increase the risk levels among many people.
For more on the major health risks of untreated gum disease, or to learn about any of our family dentist services in Michigan, speak to the staff at Bright Side Dental today.