Almost half of adults over the age of thirty have a form of gum disease. [1] This oral disease, when left untreated, threatens the aesthetics and function of one’s natural teeth. In recent years, scientific studies have been mounting, which shows an association between gum or periodontal disease and a growing number of medical conditions. [2] Researchers continue to search for more information on how conditions linked to gum disease might benefit from improved oral hygiene and periodontal therapy.

What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, begins with inflammation of the soft tissue surrounding teeth. When this inflammation goes untreated, it progresses into an infection that destroys the supporting bone surrounding the teeth. The leading cause of gum disease is ineffective oral hygiene. Although it is a common oral disease, it is mostly preventable with twice-daily tooth brushing and flossing, and regular dental checkups and cleanings.

Gum Disease Treatment

Early detection of gum inflammation is key to preventing a more serious infection and more extensive treatment. A periodontist can diagnose, treat, and help prevent the recurrence of periodontal disease. Mild cases of gum disease respond to periodontal cleaning, but other periodontal treatments such as pocket depth reduction and laser treatment are available for more severe cases.

Conditions Linked to Gum Disease

Heart Disease

Cardiovascular disease is the most well-known medical condition linked to gum disease. Researchers have yet to find an exact cause-and-effect relationship between the two. However, inflammation seems to be a key factor. [3] Bacteria infecting the gum may travel in the bloodstream and cause inflammation throughout the circulatory system, and even infect heart valves.

Stroke

Numerous studies point to a significant association between gingivitis and periodontal disease to strokes affecting the brain. [4] There is evidence that the severity of gum disease increases the risk of a stroke by making hardening of the brain’s arteries more likely. This highlights the importance of the role of a periodontist for gum and overall health.

Respiratory Disease

Infected gums may be a source of respiratory infections such as bacterial pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the value in lung health for fighting off illnesses such as viruses. Toothbrushing, flossing, and regular periodontal evaluations can be a part of both oral and lung health. [5]

Cancer

According to a recent Harvard study, people with periodontal disease are 43% more likely to develop cancer of the esophagus and 52% more likely to develop cancer of the stomach. [6] Harvard researchers also found a 59% greater risk of pancreatic cancer correlated with the presence of a common harmful bacteria found in periodontal disease. [7] In addition to the increased risk of oral cancer linked to gum disease, these severe diseases make gum health a priority for any health-conscious individual.

Diabetes

For years, we have known that people with diabetes have gum disease more frequently than those who don’t have diabetes. Scientists now believe that gum disease can elevate blood sugar levels in people without diabetes and those with diabetes. It appears that healthy gums may help keep blood sugar lower, decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes, and help people control their type 2 diabetes. Maintaining healthy gums may also help prevent the serious medical complications commonly associated with diabetes, such as eye problems, kidney disease, heart attack, and stroke. [8]

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that attacks joints and causes pain, swelling, and disfigurement. Research shows that inflammation in the gums might affect the development of this chronic disease. Consequently, attention to periodontal health may benefit the rheumatoid arthritis patient. Scientists hope that future research uncovers the role of gum health in preventing the development of rheumatoid arthritis. [9]

Dementia

A recent analysis by the National Institute on Aging confirmed a linkage between bacteria that cause periodontal disease and the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia diseases. These scientists discovered that gum infection occurred before the dementia diagnosis and not after when it would be more expected. [10]

Conditions Linked to Gum Disease Make Gum Health Essential

Researchers continue studying these medical conditions and others possibly linked to gum disease. Dentists have always known that keeping healthy gums was critical to keeping teeth for a lifetime. It now appears likely that periodontal health is also essential for a healthier life.

Indeed, there are many health reasons to see a good periodontist. At Dental Implants and Periodontal Health of Rochester, Dr. Zahavi and Dr. Rapoport can help you get your gums healthy and keep them healthy so that you can enjoy the smile and functions of your natural teeth for a lifetime.

Call us today at 585-685-2005 or contact us online.

Sources:

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/conditions/periodontal-disease.html#:~:text=A%20recent%20CDC%20report1,and%20older%20have%20periodontal%20disease

[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2319417018302634

[3] https://aap.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/JPER.19-0441

[4] https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/01.STR.0000110789.20526.9D

[5] https://www.perio.org/consumer/healthy-lungs

[6] https://www.health.harvard.edu/cancer/gum-disease-linked-to-an-increased-risk-for-cancer#:~:text=In%20up%20to%2028%20years,people%20whose%20gums%20were%20healthier.

[7] https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/gum-disease-may-signal-warning-for-pancreatic-cancer

[8] https://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Publications/Files/FTDP_July2013_2.pdf?la=en#:~:text=People%20with%20diabetes%2C%20especially%20uncontrolled,people%20with%20and%20without%20diabetes

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4495574/

[10] https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/large-study-links-gum-disease-dementia

 

Board Certified Periodontist

Dr. Thomas Zahavi is a Diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology. He completed his post-graduate periodontal education at the Eastman Dental Center at the University of Rochester in 2006.

Dr. Zahavi obtained his combined DMD and Master’s degree Summa Cum Laude from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1997). He then pursued a speciality program in Prosthodontics (the restoration and replacement of teeth), receiving the highest honors in the residency program (2001). In 2003 he relocated with his family to the USA in pursuit of a residency program in Periodontology at the University of Rochester/ Eastman Institute for Oral Health. He was awarded a Certificate of Excellence from the American Academy of Periodontology Foundation and honored with a research fellowship from a major dental implant company. He is a Board-Certified Periodontist (USA) and Prosthodontist (Israel). His clinical experience and training in the two specialities proves to be invaluable, especially in patients requiring comprehensive periodontal and implant treatments.

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