How Gum Disease Impacts Your Overall Health

There’s a common misconception that oral health and physical health are independent of one another. After all, you wouldn’t expect a doctor to treat a toothache or a dentist to fix a broken bone. However, oral and physical health have a strong relationship known as the mouth-body connection.

The mouth-body connection is how oral health affects physical health and vice versa. The mouth is a rich microbiome with an extensive highway of blood vessels and nerves. Bacteria from an infection can easily pass through the delicate tissue in your mouth and spread throughout your body, while chronic inflammation can trigger a body-wide inflammatory response that harms healthy body function.

Periodontal disease, also called gum disease, is the primary cause of oral infection and inflammation. Leaving gum disease untreated leads to irreversible damage and tooth loss while also increasing the risks or severity of several dangerous medical conditions.

Here are 5 health conditions that share a strong connection to gum disease.

1. Cardiovascular Disease

Decades of research have shown that gum disease and heart disease often occur simultaneously. In some individuals, the connection is indirect, meaning their lifestyle habits or genetic makeup may make them more likely to develop both health conditions.

In other cases, there is a very direct connection, as severe inflammation from gum disease increases white blood cell count and increases C-reactive protein levels. This can make a person twice to three times more likely to develop some type of heart disease or experience a cardiac event.

Treating active gum disease and preventing future relapses can lower your risks of developing heart disease and may also improve the effectiveness of medication used to treat active heart disease.

2. Respiratory Disease

Your mouth is a literal gateway into your body, so it isn’t a surprise to learn that respiratory health can be affected by gum disease.

Untreated gum disease eventually evolves from inflammation to infection, and bad bacteria from the infected gums can spread to your lower respiratory tract. The presence of high bacteria levels in the trachea, bronchial tubes, and lungs can increase the risks of developing pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). People who already have some form of respiratory disease will typically experience more severe symptoms and are more likely to require hospitalization if they have untreated gum disease.

3. Diabetes

The relationship between gum disease and diabetes is very much a two-way street. Diabetes can harm gum health, while gum disease exacerbates diabetes symptoms. If either condition is left unmanaged, the results can be dangerous for both your physical and oral health.

People who already have diabetes have a greater risk of infection and complications. Xerostomia, or chronic dry mouth, is another common symptom of diabetes that can greatly increase risks for gum disease.

Non-diabetics or early-stage pre-diabetics also have a greater chance of developing type 1 or 2 diabetes if they have moderate to severe periodontal disease. This risk is linked to heightened blood sugar levels typically seen in more severe cases of gum disease.

4. Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are believed to be caused by or related to an abnormal buildup of proteins in the brain cells. Research is also showing that a specific strain of bacteria called F. nucleatum not only generates systemic inflammation but can harm the nervous system and exacerbate Alzheimer’s symptoms or severity.

More studies will need to be done to confirm whether severe gum disease and excessive F. nucleatum growth are the cause or a symptom of Alzheimer’s, but it’s safe to say that managing this disease is extremely important in reducing dementia symptoms and managing Alzheimer’s disease.

5. Rheumatoid Arthritis

The first study that suggested a link between chronic periodontal disease and rheumatoid arthritis occurred nearly four decades ago, but more recent research continues to support the idea that these two inflammatory diseases are related.

A significant cohort study showed that severe gum disease increases a person’s risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and may also make managing rheumatoid arthritis more difficult. Another study suggests that the link is not yet directly apparent, but the number of people with rheumatoid arthritis and active or frequent battles with gum disease isn’t a coincidence and should be considered carefully.

Complete health dentistry protects your overall health and well-being.

Ada Smile Place practices complete health dentistry, a modern approach to dental care that prioritizes prevention and patient education to help people achieve a new level of optimal oral and physical health. We believe the oral-systemic health connection should be protected through excellent oral hygiene practices, a nutritious diet, routine checkups and cleanings, and swift treatment if a problem does arise.

Learn more about the mouth-body connection and how you can improve your health through dental care by scheduling an appointment with the best dentists in Ada, Oklahoma.