According to many studies, including a recent report from Harvard Health Publishing, the health of your gums can be directly related to your total well-being. Harvard’s in-depth study highlights the way the soft tissues in your mouth are a gateway to your overall health.
Periodontal disease may play a role in diabetes, heart disease, and dementia.
Gum disease is known to be the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. Now, it has also been associated with an increased risk of some serious degenerative diseases.
A World Within our Mouths
Our mouths provide an eco-system for a complex collection of bacteria (the oral microbiome), and good bacteria and bad bacteria exist in this world. When in balance, through proper oral hygiene and dental care, the gums are protected from disease-causing microbes. When unbalanced, the destructive pathogens accumulate, overtaking the mouth and causing periodontal disease.
When this happens, disease-fighting white blood cells flood the soft tissues of the mouth to kill the bacteria. However, they also end up destroying vital gum tissue.
How gum disease starts
When bacteria build up on the gums, they cause irritation and redness the earliest stages of gum disease, called gingivitis. Without treatment, this inflammation leads to advanced gum disease (periodontitis) where it begins to affect the supporting bone, eventually leading to tooth loss.
How Gum Diseases Affects Your Body
"Yesterday we used to think that bacteria destroyed tissue; today scientists understand that it's inflammation caused by the bacteria that destroys tissue," says Dr. Thomas Van Dyke, chair of the Department of Applied Sciences at Harvard-affiliated Forsyth Institute.
What has been documented, is that over the years, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, pregnancy complications, and dementia have been found in higher concentrations among people with periodontal disease when other factors are equal.
"It's an association, not a cause-and-effect relationship, says Dr. Van Dyke. "But inflammation, which plays a role in all these conditions, seems to be the link."
This association probably works both ways. For example, research has shown that patients with both diabetes and periodontal disease who have been treated for one of the conditions find improvement in both.
A prevailing theory is that gum disease destroys the protective barrier that our soft tissue provide and allow oral bacteria out of the mouth and into the bloodstream. Other theories include inhalation as a source of introduction.
Preventing Gum Disease
The best way to combat destructive oral bacteria is by brushing at least twice per day and flossing at least once. This--in addition to regular checkups, cleanings, a healthy diet, and drinking lots of water—keep the oral bacterial balance ideal. Other big steps you can take include quitting cigarettes and undergoing treatment as soon as you notice any changes to your gums. Stopping periodontitis can be as simple as receiving a deep cleaning, or scaling and root planing, along with topical antibiotics.
If you have concerns about the health of your gums, call our Annapolis dental office today at: