When it comes to the war against disease, the health of your mouth shouldn't be ignored. Although many people assume that yellowed teeth, tooth decay, and even conditions like gingivitis are mainly cosmetic problems or a minor inconvenience, the mouth is actually a window to your overall health, and is deeply connected to your well-being.
Over 120 different serious systemic problems show symptoms in the teeth, gums, and oral tissues, which is just one of the reasons you should be vigilant about meeting with your periodontist at least once a year to receive a CPE, or comprehensive periodontal exam. During this exam, Dr. I. Stephen Brown will carefully check your mouth, teeth, gum tissue, and underlying bone tissue for problems, including the signs of gingivitis and periodontal disease.
The food debris that builds up on your teeth provides an ample food source for the bacteria in your mouth. Unfortunately, as bacteria grow and multiply, the release acids that cause dental decay and toxins that spark inflammation in the gum tissue. If left untreated, the gum tissue will begin to pull away from the teeth, creating gingival pockets where even more bacteria can hide. Eventually, this bacteria can start to leach into the bloodstream, contributing to and interacting with a wide range of serious systemic problems, including:
People who have diabetes have trouble controlling their blood sugars, which can set the stage for severe cases of periodontal disease. Research has shown that people who have diabetes are far more likely to suffer with periodontal disease, and that periodontal disease can be a precursor to diabetes. Unfortunately, studies have also shown that diabetics also tend to develop more severe forms of periodontitis, putting them at a high risk for tooth loss, bone loss, and a changing face shape.
If you have diabetes, make an appointment right away to be screened for gum disease. If you have the condition, work with Dr. Brown to proactively treat your symptoms. Likewise, if you have periodontal disease, talk with your doctor about screening your for diabetes to help to protect your health.
Gum disease has also been directly linked to lung conditions including COPD and pneumonia. As you breathe through your mouth, oral bacteria can be inhaled into your lung tissue, where they can create damaging toxins. These bacteria can also spark lung inflammation, making it more difficult for your body to oxygenate your blood.
Gum disease has also been directly linked to circulatory system problems including heart disease, atherosclerosis, stroke, and even heart attacks. In fact, the same oral bacteria found in the mouth of people who have gum disease have been discovered in the plaques that can line and block arteries.
The cause of this problem lies in the fact that your gum tissue is full of tiny veins, giving bacteria an easy way to infiltrate your circulatory system. As these bacteria leach into your bloodstream, they create inflammation within the heart, arteries, and blood vessels. Bacteria can also cause infections of the circulatory system, including endocarditis. Stroke-causing bacteria including Streptococcus sanguis can spread to the heart from the mouth, potentially causing disability or even death.
As if circulatory problems and diabetes weren't enough, gum disease has also been tied to certain types of cancers. In fact, one study showed that men with periodontal disease were over 36% more likely to develop lung cancer and a staggering 49% more likely to struggle with kidney cancer. Other cancers, including pancreatic cancer and blood cancers, like leukemia, have also been linked to gum disease.
The inflammation caused by gingivitis can also travel to joints, making conditions like rheumatoid arthritis even worse. People with rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to develop gum disease, and like diabetes, periodontitis tends to be worse in RA patients than in other patients. In fact, patients with RA are as much as eight times more likely to develop periodontal disease, which is why all patients with RA should abide by a careful oral hygiene routine and visit with their periodontist frequently.
Fortunately, gum disease is highly treatable, which is why you should make an appointment with The Perio Group at the first sign of trouble. Using advanced imaging tools and minimally invasive treatments, Dr. Brown can help you to stop gum disease in its tracks—protecting your smile and your health.