Is Gum Disease Linked to Other Conditions in Your Body?
It may be surprising to some to learn that oral health is connected to overall health. Today we are going to focus on gum disease and the link it has to systemic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Let’s first define gum disease, there are 2 types:
- Gingivitis: This is the mildest form of the gum disease and causes redness, inflammation, and bleeding of the gums due to the build-up of plaque. The most common causative factor is inadequate oral hygiene. Other contributing factors are smoking, diabetes, pregnancy, puberty, systemic diseases, etc. Gingivitis is reversible following professional dental cleaning and improved home care.
- Periodontitis: Gingivitis may advance to periodontitis if left untreated. The same plaque that causes gingivitis gets trapped under the gums and releases toxins. The body responds to the toxins and our immune system launches a chronic inflammatory response. The body wants to eliminate infection, but in the case of periodontitis it is a double edged sword and inflammatory byproducts result in degradation of the bone and connective tissue under our gums. Despite the severity of Periodontitis, it often has mild symptoms. The disease process can result in loosening of teeth and tooth loss if left untreated.
In this particular blog we’re going to talk about periodontitis and how it may be related to other systemic health problems.
The Relationship of Periodontitis to Systemic Health
Below are some of the most common systemic health problems that have been linked to periodontal disease:
- Diabetes: patients who have diabetes, especially uncontrolled diabetes, are at a higher risk for periodontitis. This can be attributed to the fact that the immune cell function is altered in diabetic patients, leaving them at a higher risk of infection. Research has also suggested that periodontal disease may make it harder for diabetic patients to control their blood sugar. This could put diabetic patients at higher risk of experiencing complications of high blood sugar.
- Heart Disease: While a direct cause and effect relationship has yet to be established, research has shown that periodontitis increases the risk of heart disease. Researchers believe it is the inflammatory nature of periodontitis that provides the link to heart disease.
- Other Systemic Diseases: Research has shown periodontitis to have some links to stroke, cancer, respiratory disease, and many other conditions.
While much research is still required to find exact cause-effect relationships between periodontitis and systemic disease, there is enough evidence to warrant serious concern. It is important to get regular exams to check the health of your gums.
How is Periodontitis Treated?
Periodontitis is treated with a treatment called scaling and root planing. This is a process where plaque and calculus (calcified plaque deposits) are removed from the area below the gums. It removes gum infection and creates an environment that promotes healing of the gums. Unfortunately periodontitis is not reversible, but it can be arrested and maintained after initial treatment of scaling and root planing. Severe periodontitis may require referral to a periodontist for more advanced treatment if there is an unfavorable response to scaling and root planing.
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