Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a prevalent oral health condition in the United States. According to the CDC, gum disease affects nearly half of American adults aged 30 years and older, as well as 70% of adults aged 65 and older.
While it may seem confined to the oral cavity, recent research has shed light on the relationship between gum disease and overall health. Below, we delve into the connection between gum disease and several other diseases and conditions.
Gum Disease at a Glance
Let’s take a moment to understand what gum disease is. Gum disease occurs when plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, builds up on the teeth and irritates the gums. The initial stage of gum disease, known as gingivitis, is characterized by red, swollen, and bleeding gums.
If left untreated, with time gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, a more advanced stage where the infection spreads below the gum line and damages the tissues and bone supporting the teeth. Periodontitis can potentially lead to tooth loss.
Read also: 3 Ways to Prevent Gingivitis
The Link Between Gum Disease and Other Diseases
Numerous studies suggest a potential link between gum disease and other health issues.
Emerging research has revealed an association between gum disease and heart disease. People with periodontal disease are up to three times more likely to have cardiovascular issues.
Studies suggest that the bacteria present in infected gums can enter the bloodstream, causing inflammation in the blood vessels.
This chronic inflammation can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis, a condition characterized by the buildup of fatty plaques in the arteries. Over time, these plaques can restrict blood flow, leading to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
The impact of gum disease extends beyond the mouth and can affect the respiratory system as well. A recent study shows that when you have gum disease, harmful bacteria can be inhaled into your lungs, potentially causing respiratory infections.
Moreover, individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, may experience worsened symptoms due to the inflammatory response triggered by the presence of gum disease.
While the precise relationship between gum disease and cancer is still being explored, some studies have suggested a potential association.
According to the American Association for Cancer Research, gum disease is associated with several types of cancer in women, including breast and esophageal cancer.
A study conducted by Harvard also shows that individuals with gum disease are nearly 50% more likely to develop esophageal cancer and 52% more likely to develop stomach cancer.
The impact of untreated gum disease is not limited to physical health; it can also affect your mental well-being. Research has indicated a correlation between gum disease and mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety.
A study conducted by the University of Birmingham reveals that individuals with untreated periodontal disease have a 37% increased risk of developing mental health issues.
It’s important to note that while these connections have been observed, they do not necessarily imply causation. More research is needed to fully understand the underlying mechanisms and the extent of these relationships.
Nonetheless, maintaining good oral hygiene and seeking regular dental care can help prevent and manage gum disease, potentially reducing the risk of associated health complications.
Read also: Importance of Maintaining Healthy Gums
If you are looking for professional dental care in Lafayette, LA, book an appointment at Maestri Family Dental today so that we can assist you with any questions or concerns you have about your oral health!