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. A study published by the CDC reported that an incredible 47.2% of American adults have periodontal disease. That number increases significantly (over 70%) when you just look at people over age 65 [https://www.perio.org/consumer/cdc-study.htm]. Periodontal disease (gum 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 toxins/acids that irritate and infect the gums, eventually destroying 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 [https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/dental/art-20047475]. These studies suggest people with periodontal disease are at a greater risk of systemic disease. They also indicate that periodontal disease can allow oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream and travel to major organs, beginning new infections. Research suggests that periodontal bacteria in the blood stream can:
- Contribute to the development of heart disease
- Increase the risk of stroke
- Compromise the health of those that have diabetes or respiratory diseases
- Increase a woman’s risk of having a preterm, low-birth weight baby
While there is still much research to be done in order to fully understand the link between periodontal disease and systemic diseases, research has shown that infections in the mouth can wreak havoc elsewhere in the body due to the spread of bacteria and the increase in inflammation. For example, 41% of brain abscesses come from dental origin. 41%!!!
To ensure a healthy, disease-free mouth, we recommend the importance of regular dental check-ups and cleanings, which include a periodontal evaluation. Also, diligent home care and a proper diet can help reduce plaque and bacteria in the mouth.
Remember the mouth-body connection! Taking care of your oral health can improve to your overall medical health!