Research compiled over the last five years suggests that gum disease, especially if the condition has persisted for a long time without treatment, can contribute to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, pregnancy complications and some types of cancers.
Infection May Not Be Painful Yet
Early stage periodontal disease (gingivitis) is seldom painful and causes relatively minor signs, such as red, swollen and bleeding gums.
If gone untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis– a serious infection that destroys the soft tissue and bone that supports your teeth. This progression can eventually cause tooth loss as well as contributing to chronic bad breath.
Inflammation May Trigger Cardiac Arrest
Infections in the mouth also may increase the risk to people undergoing several types of surgery, including transplantation and cardiac valve replacement. Recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that treating severe gum disease can improve the function of blood vessel walls, improving heart health.
In Journal of Periodontology two, studies found periodontal bacteria (bugs normally found in inflamed gums) can travel through your blood stream to the arteries in your heart where they trigger a cycle of inflammation and arterial narrowing that contributes to heart attacks. Oral bacteria also make you more prone to develop blood clots, increasing the likelihood of a stroke.
Other than bleeding, gum disease has few symptoms and rarely causes much discomfort. The gums do not hurt until it is too late. Well before the gums or teeth start to hurt, the dual forces of infection and inflammation in the mouth appear to hitch a ride in the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body, wreaking havoc once there.
Premature Birth Rates
New evidence is mounting that suggests periodontal disease is a risk factor for pregnant women. Pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be seven times more likely to have a baby that is born too early and too small.
It appears that periodontal disease triggers increased levels of biological fluids that induce labor. Furthermore, data suggests that women whose periodontal condition worsens during pregnancy have an even higher risk of having a premature baby.
Research has emerged suggesting that the relationship between periodontal disease and diabetes run parallel.
Diabetes slows down your circulation, which makes the gum tissues more susceptible to infections. The body's resistances to infection heighten once high glucose levels in the saliva promote bacteria that cause periodontal disease.
Severe periodontal disease can increase the blood sugar and place diabetics at risk for life threatening complications. It is imperative for diabetics especially to see their dental care provider as often as possible.
With these findings in mind, an annual periodontal evaluation with a board certified dentist should be added to a patient's list of important annual health screenings.