The American Academy of Periodontology cites research indicating that people with gum disease are nearly twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery (heart) disease as those without gum disease. Some scientists believe that bacteria from the mouth travel through the blood stream to affect the arteries. The blood concentration of C-reactive protein, an indication of heart disease risk similar to cholesterol, is elevated in patients with periodontitis.
Research points to a link between gum disease and stroke, with studies finding higher instances of oral infection in a group of stroke survivors than in a control group. One study concluded that periodontitis is an "independent risk factor" for stroke, with up to 2.6 times the risk of stroke in subjects with periodontitis. Another study found that periodontitis was an even stronger risk factor for stroke than high blood pressure! Studies suggest that having severe periodontitis is associated with a four-fold increase in the risk of Alzheimners disease.
Research indicates that bacteria from the mouth – including those present in someone suffering from gum disease – can be inhaled down into the lungs, leading to respiratory diseases such as pneumonia. Studies show that people with gum disease have more lung disease than those without gum disease.
In a normal body, bone growth slows over time, and bone density decreases due to age and other circumstances. But in people with osteoporosis, bones are weakened to the point that they are fragile enough to fracture easily and frequently. Although we most commonly hear of hip or back fractures, all bones are affected, including the jaw. A jaw with decreased bone density can't support the teeth as well as a healthy jaw, which leaves those suffering from both gum disease and osteoporosis with a heightened risk of tooth loss. Studies show that people with gum disease have more Osteopenia (Osteoporosis). Another connection between gum disease and bones is Arthritis. Research indicates that patients with rheumatiod arthritis are nearly eight times more likely to have periodontal disease. ..
If you have diabetes, it is especially important to take good care of your teeth and gums, because gum disease and diabetes can affect each other adversely. Diabetes can disrupt the immune system's ability to fight infection, making diabetics more susceptible to gum disease, which is essentially an infection of the tissue surrounding the teeth. And advanced gum disease can boost the level of blood sugar in the body, further complicating diabetes and making it more difficult to control.
During pregnancy and other phases of increased hormone levels (puberty, menstrual cycle, menopause) the risk of oral health problems is higher than normal. Studies have linked gum disease to low birth weight and premature labor. Oral bacteria can travel through the blood stream and cross the placental barrier, exposing the fetus to infection. If you are planning to become pregnant, be sure to assess your oral health first and begin treatment if you have gingivitis or periodontitis.
We know that smoking is a major cause of preventable disease and death, but did you know that researchers have concluded that "smoking is the #1 controllable risk factor for gum disease" too? Whether or not you smoke is a better predictor of your risk of periodontitis than how much bacterial plaque is on your teeth. Most people (over 90%) who do not respond to treatment of their gum disease are smokers. We all know how hard it is to quit smoking, but it is worth it, and we can help.