Research indicates no fewer than ten systemic diseases have been linked to periodontitis. How are periodontal disease and systemic diseases connected? Studies indicate that chronic periodontitis has been linked to the following conditions: 
- metabolic syndrome
- atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease
- adverse pregnancy outcomes
- respiratory disease
- kidney disease
- rheumatoid arthritis
- cognitive impairment
As more research is being conducted to explain the mechanisms involved in the link between periodontal disease and systemic diseases, it seems that inflammatory mediators play an important role.
What Does a Connection Between Periodontal Disease and Systemic Diseases Mean for Patients?
Periodontal disease and systemic diseases do not directly cause each other to exist. However, the co-existing conditions can exacerbate one another. Infections and systemic inflammation can weaken the immune system as the body attempts to fight off multiple diseases simultaneously.
For example, a patient may have periodontitis or inflammation of the gums because they also have another systemic disease. While regular brushing and flossing may alleviate the appearance of gum disease, it may continue reoccurring when coexisting with a systemic disease.
Gum Disease Risk Factors
According to the CDC, the following conditions may increase a patient’s risk of developing periodontal disease.
- Crooked teeth
- Poor oral hygiene
- Hereditary existence of gum disease
- Underlying immune deficiencies
- Defective fillings
- Medications that cause dry mouth
- Dental bridges that don’t fit properly
- Female hormonal changes (pregnancy, oral contraceptives, etc.)
The Effects of Periodontal Disease
Gum disease is highly prevalent though many patients are unaware. Chronic periodontitis is an inflammatory disease caused by bacteria in dental plaque. When someone fails to remove food particles and plaque on and between their teeth, the plaque hardens and eventually becomes tartar. That infection ultimately destroys the gum tissue that supports the teeth, and they may cause degeneration of the tooth, tooth root, and jawbone.
This oral disease is characterized by cycles of irritation and remission, which can cause patients to ignore ongoing cleaning and maintenance. Here are the most frequently occurring signs of periodontal disease for patients to watch for.
- Red or swollen gums
- Tender gums
- Gums that bleed easily
- Chronic bad breath
- Frequent bad taste
- Painful chewing
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Receding gums
- Changes to bite
- Denture or bridge fit changes
Heart Disease and Periodontitis
Scientific research has shown that patients with gum disease were at increased risk, up to 2 to 3 times higher, of having a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular events.
It’s not a direct, linear connection, however. Not everyone with gum disease has heart disease, and not everyone with heart disease has gum disease. The risk may be higher if other risk factors are also at play, such as diabetes, tobacco use, or poor oral hygiene. Still, the scientific community believes there may be an independent correlation between periodontitis and heart disease, particularly in relation to chronic inflammation.
While there is no concrete proof that gum disease treatment would have any curative effects on cardiovascular disease, there’s enough compelling evidence to suggest that vigilant gum disease treatment and prevention of gum disease are wise precautions.
Medical research indicates a connection between periodontal infection and respiratory diseases. We already know gum disease begins with bacteria in the mouth. This bacteria can be aspirated into the lungs and cause pneumonia. It’s also worth noting the presence of the inflammation that can eventually destroy gum tissue is found in both periodontitis and emphysema.
There is enough scientific evidence to suggest that improving oral hygiene and gum disease treatment may reduce the risk of respiratory infection in patients at increased risk.
Dental research data confirm that patients with diabetes are three times as likely to develop gum disease than patients without diabetes. Experts have been able to track a connection between hyperglycemia and the severity of gum disease.
Physicians and periodontists have conducted multiple studies and concluded that chronic infections and inflammation correlate with an increased risk of developing cancer. Between the tooth and the gum is what are called periodontal pockets. These pockets can act as reservoirs for viruses and infections that are associated with cancer. Experts in these fields confirmed that compromised oral health may increase the risk of cancer development, thus proving that gum disease treatment is a valuable investment for patients with other risk factors for cancer.
It’s well-documented that the mouth is home to hundreds of species of bacteria, including those that leave plaque, tartar, and eventually gum disease. These bacteria cause inflammation, weakening the gum tissue and pathways that connect the mouth to other body parts.
Inflammation of the central nervous system is a hallmark symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, periodontitis can infiltrate the bloodstream on a systemic level, contributing to nervous system inflammation.
Research indicates that approximately 40% of total deaths can be controlled when risk factors for non-communicable diseases are eliminated. The data suggests that periodontitis is a risk factor for non-communicable diseases, including chronic kidney disease.
As with other systemic diseases, both gum disease and kidney disease are associated with inflammation. The low levels of inflammation that periodontitis contributes may lead to a membrane dysfunction commonly associated with kidney disease. 
Call The Top Periodontist in Rochester!
If you are concerned about your periodontal health and overall health risks associated with that, you need an expert periodontal care provider who can recognize the signs of systemic inflammation and ensure proper care is administered. Call Dental Implants and Periodontal Health of Rochester for an appointment! 585-685-2005