Research has shown that a single mouth can be home to more than 6 billion bacteria – a population that exceeds the human population of earth.
Periodontal (gum) disease is caused by those bacteria working their way under gum tissue. Untreated, the infection will destroy gums and bones. Oral infections have also been linked with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, respiratory, infections, breast cancer and premature births. Studies on the connections between periodontal and other diseases is now underway.
Seeing your dentist on a regular basis helps keep your mouth healthy and also allows your dentist to watch for signs that may point to other health issues. You can see how dental health and your overall health are connected in this infographic.
Here is some additional information on gum disease and overall physical health:
People with chronic gum disease are at a higher risk of having a heart attack, according to the Academy of General Dentistry, because the mouth is an open pathway into the body,
Some researchers have suggested that gum disease may contribute to heart disease because bacteria from infected gums can dislodge, enter the bloodstream, and attach to blood vessels and increase clot formation. It has also been suggested that inflammation caused by gum disease may also trigger clot formation. Clots decrease blood flow to the heart, thereby causing an elevation in blood pressure and increasing the risk of a heart attack.
There is an increased prevalence of gum disease among those with diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Emerging research also suggests that serious gum disease may have the potential to affect blood glucose control and contribute to the progression of diabetes.
Bacteria in the oral cavity can be aspirated into the lungs and cause respiratory diseases, including bronchitis, emphysema and pneumonia.
Pregnant women are at increased risk for periodontal disease due to higher levels of progesterone which can cause an exaggerated response to plaque bacteria. As a result, pregnant women are more likely to develop gingivitis even if they follow a consistent oral health care routine. Additionally pregnant women who have periodontal disease are seven times more likely to have a baby that is born prematurely with a low birth weight.
A study conducted by the Journal of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment found that individuals with chronic periodontal disease had a higher occurrence of breast cancer. The researchers found that the protein levels in saliva have shown a potential to assist in the diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care of breast cancer.
Obviously, it is important to take care of your oral health in order to help maintain your overall health. This is especially true if your family history indicates that you might be at risk for heart disease or diabetes.
But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, advanced gum disease affects 4%–12% of U.S. adults. And one-fourth of U.S. adults aged 65 or older have lost all of their teeth.
Often the biggest deterrent to getting dental care is cost. A dental savings plan can help make getting dental care affordable, and support you in maintaining your health and peace of mind.