Did you know that regular brushing and flossing does a lot more than keep your teeth and gums healthy? Your oral health reaches far beyond your mouth to the rest of your body. For example, gum disease, which almost half of all American adults have, has been linked to several health conditions, including diabetes and heart disease. Thankfully, periodontitis is treatable and there are plenty of simple steps you can take to keep your gums healthy.
What are the signs of periodontitis, and why should you take it so seriously? Read on to learn more about the link between gum disease and your overall health.
What is periodontitis and how does it affect your mouth?
Many people who are somewhat familiar with gum disease are more aware of gingivitis than periodontitis. While the conditions are similar, the main difference between gingivitis and periodontitis is severity.
Gum disease often begins as gingivitis, where your gingiva (the part of your gums that meets your teeth) becomes inflamed. This is often due to poor dental hygiene, as bacterial buildup and food debris can irritate your sensitive gum tissue. Gingivitis is completely reversible if caught early. If it’s allowed to progress, though, it can turn into periodontitis.
Periodontitis is a severe inflammation of the gums. The damage penetrates deep into the gum tissue and can cause your gums to pull away from your teeth. If you don’t get treatment for this condition, you could end up facing tooth loss.
Common periodontitis symptoms include:
- Gums that bleed when you brush or floss your teeth.
- Swollen or receding gums.
- Halitosis (bad breath).
- Infections or pus around the base of your teeth.
- Loose teeth.
Aside from poor dental hygiene, other risk factors for periodontitis include smoking, type I and II diabetes, immune disorders, and even certain medications. The problem with periodontal disease is that it doesn’t cause pain until it reaches an advanced stage. By that point, the effects have had time to spread to the rest of your body.
How periodontal disease affects the rest of your body.
Your oral health has a cyclical relationship with the rest of your body. A healthy mouth helps keep your body in good shape, while an unhealthy mouth can increase your risk of many seemingly unrelated conditions. For example, an overabundance of bacteria in your mouth is linked to frequent headaches and migraines. Let’s take a closer look at six of the conditions most often associated with periodontitis.
1. Heart Disease
When bacteria are allowed to build up in your mouth, they don’t just stay there. Some of the pathogens can find their way into your bloodstream and travel throughout your body. This can contribute to systemic inflammation over time.
Chronic inflammation is hard on all your body’s tissues, but it’s especially damaging to your heart and blood vessels. That’s one of the reasons experts believe there’s a link between periodontitis and heart disease. Gum disease is associated with atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and a higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
It’s not clear how gum disease plays a role in the development of type II diabetes, but it does increase your risk of complications. People with diabetes mellitus have a weakened immune system and less ability to heal. This leaves them more susceptible to infections. Not only can this increase your chances of gum abscesses and mouth infections, but oral bacteria can also travel to the rest of your body and cause other types of illnesses.
3. Pregnancy Complications
The surge of hormones and other changes during pregnancy can increase inflammation in your gums, no matter how well you brush your teeth. While the inflammation often goes back down to normal levels after giving birth, periodontitis can increase your risk of pregnancy complications. Gum disease is linked to gestational diabetes, low birth weight, pre-eclampsia, and premature birth.
Periodontitis is linked to many respiratory conditions, but the most direct link is to bacterial pneumonia. Pneumonia occurs when bacteria travels from the mouth and throat into your windpipe, eventually settling at the base of your lungs. The high concentration of bacteria present in periodontal disease increases the probability of developing pneumonia.
Older people have a higher risk of both pneumonia and gum disease, making oral health an important priority for this demographic.
When people are suffering from depression or another mood disorder, they often have a harder time taking care of their basic needs. This means that regular oral hygiene can get ignored for long periods of time, increasing their chances of developing periodontitis. Unfortunately, the chronic inflammation from periodontitis can contribute to poor sleep and fatigue, symptoms that are already present in many mood disorders.
6. Alzheimer’s Disease
While researchers still aren’t sure what causes Alzheimer’s disease, recent studies suggest that periodontitis could be a factor. Porphyromonas gingivalis, the bacteria often responsible for gum disease, produces specific proteins called gingipains. Researchers found higher levels of these proteins in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Their presence indicates that gum disease could be linked to cognitive deterioration.
Periodontal treatment is an investment in your health.
The number one thing you can do to prevent and treat periodontitis is to be diligent about your oral hygiene. Try to brush and floss your teeth twice per day with a soft-bristled brush. Quitting smoking and keeping your diabetes under control can also make a big difference.
Seeing your dentist for regular cleanings is another great way to keep your gums healthy. If you have periodontitis, they may recommend that you have perio therapy, a type of cleaning that removes buildup from the space between your teeth and gums. They may also recommend that you undergo a restorative surgical procedure, such as flap surgery or tissue grafting, to give your gums a better chance to heal.
Talk to your dentist about periodontitis treatment today.
Are you concerned that your gum health might be affecting you in other ways? If you think you might have periodontitis, don’t be afraid to talk to your dentist about getting treatment. You can help protect yourself from these six diseases by addressing the problem early.
If you’re looking for a dentist in the Dallas, TX, area, give Dallas Cosmetic Dental a call. Dr. Alhadef and his friendly team are experienced in caring for periodontal disease and a wide range of other dental concerns. Contact us today to schedule your appointment—we look forward to helping you care for your smile!