In the past, many people separated the health of their mouths from the health of their bodies. Today, there is a better understanding of the connection between the two. You cannot have a healthy body with an unhealthy mouth, particularly when it comes to certain oral health diseases.
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is one example of an oral health problem that can affect the whole body. Think of it as a silent health assassin. Without regular checkups at a dentist, you may not even know you have periodontal disease, especially because it is often painless until it worsens.
Catching and treating gum disease early is vital for your entire body. Keep reading to find out how this disease may be silently attacking your health.
Gum disease and overall health problems
Gum disease has been linked to many serious medical conditions that can severely impact your overall health.
Gum disease and diabetes
People who have diabetes are at a much higher risk of developing gum disease compared to those who do not have the condition. This may be because people with diabetes typically have a harder time when it comes to preventing infections. Additionally, gum disease may make it harder to control blood sugar, increasing the risk of diabetic complications.
To learn more about diabetes and gum disease, check out this blog.
Gum disease and heart disease
Gum disease has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Research suggests inflammation in the body caused by gum disease can precede major cardiac events such as heart attacks and strokes. Another reason may be that bacteria from gum disease can travel through the bloodstream to the heart and may infect heart valves. Although the link between the two is not fully understood, medical professionals agree that gum disease negatively impacts heart health.
Gum disease and osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a medical disease in which bones become fragile and brittle. In some cases, bones can become so weak that a sneeze can fracture bones. Aging, hormones, and calcium and vitamin D deficiency usually cause osteoporosis. However, studies have found that gum disease is also a major risk factor. The inflammation caused by gum disease may impact bone homeostasis, or the creation of new bone, throughout the body. There are also other mechanisms at play that scientists are working to better understand.
Gum disease and respiratory disease
Gum disease can impact your lungs and make existing lung problems worse, and this is because bacteria can be inhaled from the mouth and absorbed by the lungs through tiny saliva droplets. Once the bacteria reach the lungs, an infection can occur, especially if the organs have previous damage.
Recently, a study found that people with severe gum disease are more likely to have serious complications from COVID-19, including the need for a ventilator or having an increased risk of dying from the virus.
Gum disease and cancer
People with gum disease may have a higher risk of developing certain cancers, specifically cancers of the stomach and esophagus. According to a Harvard University study, the bacteria from gum disease can negatively impact gut health. The observational study found that people with gum disease were 43% more likely to develop esophageal cancer and 52% more likely to develop stomach cancer than those with healthy gums.
Detecting gum disease early is important for overall health
The best way to prevent gum disease from attacking your body is to identify and treat it early. Here are some of the best ways to recognize the disease early on:
Visit your dentist – Regular visits to your dentist are the best way to prevent or identify periodontal disease. During the checkup, they will check for gingivitis, an early form of periodontal disease. Your dentist will also clean your teeth and gums, effectively removing the plaque that causes gum disease in the first place.
Consider the symptoms – Do you have pain when chewing? Are you experiencing bad breath? Do your gums bleed after brushing your teeth or feel tender or puffy? You may have periodontal disease.
Paying attention to changes in your mouth, like sudden pain when eating or a newly discovered loose tooth, will help you gauge the state of your oral health. If you notice one or more of these symptoms persisting, it’s time to see your dentist.
Know your habits – People who rarely maintain their teeth and gums, those who smoke or chew tobacco, pregnant women, those on certain medications, and many who have specific conditions like the ones mentioned earlier are at risk for periodontal disease. If you fall into one of these risk categories, you’ll have to be more diligent about preventative measures.
How to prevent gum disease
Preventing gum disease is manageable with regular visits to the dentist, a proper oral care routine, and paying attention to your body. If you suspect you have gum disease, it’s important to contact your dentist as soon as possible for an evaluation.
People with dental coverage are more likely to visit their dentist regularly, and because of this, they’re also more likely to avoid dental problems in the future. To find a dentist in your area, use our handy search tool.