Periodontal disease, also called gum disease, is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the soft tissue surrounding and protecting your teeth and the bone structure supporting them—much the same way skin protects your bodily organs and bones. Millions of bacteria naturally live in your mouth which can cause problems if proper oral health is not maintained. Without proper brushing and flossing to remove plaque, bacteria can cause inflammation of the gums called gingivitis. If left untreated, gingivitis can advance to become periodontitis, which is marked by enlarged gum pockets that become infected. Periodontitis can lead to the breakdown of the gums, bones and tissues that support teeth and may eventually lead to tooth loss.
Gum Disease beyond Your Mouth
If gum disease only affected your gums and teeth, then that would be bad enough. However, the disease is made all the more worse because it has been linked to several bodily illnesses and diseases. Called the oral-systemic connection, this association can threaten your overall health and well-being.
Reliable research has found that periodontal disease is connected to heart disease. Scientists have not yet been able to draw a cause-and-effect relationship between the two, but it seems that having gum disease does increase the risk of heart disease. This association may be the result of the inflammation that is commonly caused by periodontal disease.
In addition to heart disease, gingivitis and periodontitis are also linked to stroke (cerebrovascular ischemia) and hypertension, or high blood pressure. Patients who are diagnosed with acute cerebrovascular ischemia were found more likely to have one stage or the other of periodontal disease.
Diabetes and Periodontal Disease
People with diabetes are more likely to develop periodontal disease, perhaps because diabetics are more susceptible to infection than people who do not have diabetes. In fact, the relationship between periodontitis and diabetes may be a two way street: diabetes may lead to gum disease and gum disease may make it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar. Studies indicate that advanced periodontal disease may increase blood sugar levels, which may cause diabetic complications.
Osteoporosis is another condition associated with periodontal disease. Just as osteoporosis is often the culprit for bone loss throughout the body, so too this disease is connected with bone loss in the jaw; decreased bone density of the jaw may ultimately lead to loose teeth and tooth loss.
Respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia have also been linked to gum disease. The bacteria in the mouth that cause gingivitis and periodontitis can be aspirated into the lungs to cause respiratory disease.
Pregnant with Gum disease
The hormonal changes during pregnancy put woman at an increased risk of developing gum disease. There is research showing that pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be at an increased risk of premature delivery or delivering a newborn that is underweight. Scientists aren’t exactly sure how gum disease affects the outcomes of pregnancy, but evidence of a strong connection is present.