The Link Between Gum Disease and Your Overall Health

The Link Between Gum Disease and Your Overall Health

Proper oral hygiene is your best defense against gum disease, an infection that damages the tissue, ligaments, and bone that support your teeth and hold them in place. 

Gum disease can develop when bacteria and food debris are allowed to remain on your teeth and form dental plaque, a sticky substance that clings to your teeth. When plaque isn’t removed with routine brushing, flossing, and teeth cleaning, it can damage your gums and cause gum disease.

When left untreated, gum disease can increase your risk of tooth loss, affecting tooth function and your overall appearance. In addition to ruining your teeth, there’s growing evidence that gum disease is linked with several serious health conditions that can affect your overall well-being. 

Attending twice-yearly dental cleanings can help identify and stop the progression of gum disease before it endangers your wellness. Our dentists at Rifkin Dental in Yorktown Heights and Carmel, New York, specialize in gum care, or periodontics, for all types of gum issues. Whether your gums can benefit from a routine dental cleaning or require more advanced treatment such as scaling and root planing, our team has the expertise necessary to restore and protect healthy gums and determine whether your mouth can pose a threat to your wellness. 

Ignoring gum health increases your risk of gum disease. Here are some ways that your well-being can suffer if you allow gum disease to go untreated.

Diabetes

Having diabetes, especially uncontrolled diabetes, gives you a higher risk of developing gum disease. Diabetes increases the amount of sugars in your saliva, making it easier for harmful germs and plaque to grow. 

When diabetes isn’t properly managed, the higher blood sugar levels make gum disease worsen faster. The condition also weakens white blood cells, which ordinarily would defend your mouth against infection. However, controlling your blood sugar levels can help reduce your risk of unhealthy gums. 

The relationship between diabetes and gum disease also works conversely. Gum disease can make it more difficult to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, which can lead to diabetes if you don’t have it. It can also make it more difficult to control diabetes once you do have it.

Cardiovascular disease

People with gum disease have higher rates of cardiovascular disease than those without gum disease.

While the relationship between these conditions is unclear, one explanation suggests that having gum disease makes it easier for bacteria to enter your bloodstream. When this occurs, it facilitates the buildup of plaque in your arteries. 

When plaque in a blood vessel hardens, it increases your risk of blood clots. This can lead to a heart attack by blocking the blood flow to your heart. If a blood clot blocks blood flow to your brain, it can cause a stroke.

Another hypothesis proposes that gum disease and cardiovascular disease are linked because of inflammation, which is your immune system’s response to a gum infection. As your immune system fights the infection, it can also damage organs and tissue in your cardiovascular system, making them vulnerable to disease.

Cancer

You have a higher risk of developing some types of cancer if you have gum disease. Results of a long-term study indicated that subjects with advanced gum disease had a 24% higher risk of cancer versus those with healthy gums. 

According to the study, the highest risk is linked to lung cancer. Individuals with severe gum disease had more than twice the risk of lung cancer compared to those with a milder form of gum disease or no gum disease at all. Researchers also found that individuals with gum disease had a higher risk for colorectal cancer than people with healthy gums observed in the study. 

Respiratory conditions

You may have a higher risk of respiratory infections if you have gum disease. With gum disease, the level of bacteria in your mouth increases. As this occurs, it becomes more likely that the bacteria may pass into your respiratory tract from your upper throat. 

If you have an existing respiratory condition, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma, gum disease can make it worse. This is because gum disease increases airway inflammation. Inflammation in your respiratory system can cause respiratory problems including lung damage. 

Alzheimer’s disease

Gum disease may be linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. In one study, researchers found Porphyromonas gingivalis (P. gingivalis), a type of bacteria linked with severe gum disease, in the brains of deceased subjects with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers also found the DNA of the same bacteria in the spinal fluid of live subjects with Alzheimer’s disease. 

In the same study, researchers infected the gums of healthy mice with P. gingivalis. They reported that the bacteria quickly spread to the brains of the infected mice and generated changes similar to Alzheimer’s disease. 

Find out more about how to protect your well-being by maintaining your gum health. Schedule a consultation by calling our Yorktown Heights or Carmel office today.

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