A: Many people are unaware that having periodontal disease (the destruction of gum tissue and bone that hold our teeth in place) can affect your overall health. Periodontal disease is one of the most common infections, often more prevalent than the common cold! Periodontal disease is not only the number one reason people lose teeth, it can also affect the health of your body.
Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection, and in its earliest stages it’s called gingivitis. It starts when an accumulation of plaque (a colony of bacteria, food debris, and saliva) is not regularly removed from the gums and teeth. The bacteria in plaque produce acids that irritate and infect the gums and eventually destroy the jaw bone that supports the teeth. When periodontal disease is not treated it can eventually lead to tooth loss.
There are numerous studies that have looked into the correlation between gum disease and major medical conditions. These studies suggest people with periodontal disease are at a greater risk of systemic disease, and they indicate that periodontal disease may cause oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream and travel to major organs and begin new infections. Research suggests that periodontal bacteria in the bloodstream may:
- Contribute to the development of heart disease
- Increase the risk of stroke
- Compromise the health of patients with diabetes or respiratory diseases
- Increase a woman’s risk of having a preterm, low-birth weight baby
Researchers conclude that there is still much research to be done to understand the link between periodontal disease and systemic diseases, but enough studies have been conducted to support the conclusion that infections in the mouth can play havoc elsewhere in the body.
To ensure a healthy, disease-free mouth, we recommend the regular dental check-ups and cleanings, including a periodontal evaluation. Also, diligent home care and a proper diet can help reduce the plaque and bacteria in the mouth.
Remember the mouth body connection…taking care of your oral health may contribute to your overall medical health.