Periodontitis and Your Body

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How is gum disease linked to cardiovascular disease? Recent studies have shown that uncontrolled periodontal disease may increase the risk for developing cardiovascular disease.  Both periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease are chronic inflammatory conditions, thus researchers believe that inflammatory mediators may be the link between the two.  Untreated periodontal disease will increase the production of inflammatory mediators, which may potentiate the risk for development of more severe health complications, including cardiovascular disease.  However, research is still needed to determine the exact pathway of the relationship between the two inflammatory conditions. 

Is there a link between periodontal disease and diabetes? Research suggests a strong link between diabetes and gum disease.  Diabetic patients have shown to more readily develop periodontal disease, which in turn can destabilize blood sugar control and increase diabetic complications.  This is simply due to those with diabetes are more susceptible to contracting infections.  In fact, one of the many complications of diabetes is a greater risk for periodontal disease, especially in those people who don’t have their diabetes under control.  The relationship between the two conditions goes both ways; just as diabetes can increase a person’s chance of developing periodontal disease, research also suggests that efficient and intense periodontal therapy will positively affect blood sugar (HbA1C) control. Patients with active periodontal disease are more than 4 times as likely to increase blood sugar levels, contribute to increased periods of time when the body functions with a high blood sugar and impede with blood sugar control.  This puts people with diabetes at increased risk for severe diabetic complications.  A consultation with Dr. Fotek may be appropriate if you feel that blood sugar levels have been difficult to control. 

Heart Disease Research has shown that periodontal disease is associated with heart disease.  Although a clear cause-and-effect relationship between the two has not yet been established, researchers have shown that periodontal disease increases the risk of heart disease.  It is believed that inflammation is the connection between the two conditions.

Stroke Recent research data suggests that gum disease carries a higher risk of causing a stroke than diabetes, a major known risk factor.  Those with active periodontal disease are twice as likely to suffer a non-fatal stroke, compared to diabetes.  Active periodontal disease is equivalent to that of high blood pressure as a major cause of non-fatal strokes.

Osteoporosis Researchers have suggested that a link between osteoporosis and bone loss in the jaw.  Data suggest that patients with osteoporosis have a greater propensity to lose alveolar bone especially in subjects with preexisting periodontitis.  Osteoporosis may lead to tooth loss because the density of the bone that supports the teeth may be decreased, which means the teeth no longer have a solid foundation. Estrogen deficiency that accompanies menopause may also speed up the progression of oral bone loss.  Insufficiency levels of estrogen accelerate the rate of attachment loss (fibers and tissues which keep the teeth stable are destroyed). 

Respiratory DiseasePeriodontitis is a bacterial infection of the gums.  Recent data found that bacteria that grow in the oral cavity can be aspirated into the lungs to cause respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, especially in people with active periodontal disease. 

Cancer Researchers found that men with periodontal disease were 49% more likely to develop kidney cancer, 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and 30% more likely to develop carious forms of blood cancers.