As we’ve covered before in our Portland Periodontics blog, patients who deal with gum disease have a significantly higher risk for developing a wide range of chronic health problems. As we all attempt to safely navigate through the current pandemic, now is definitely not the time to worry about how the health of our gums may be impacting our overall health.
As a chronic infection, untreated gum disease can weaken the body’s immune system, an unpleasant thought when the potential for contracting COVID-19 remains so very high. In fact, preliminary research has found that the most severe cases of COVID-19 typically occur in individuals who deal with diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Each of these health issues have also been linked to gum disease.
Let’s take a look at the types of illnesses research has linked to the development of gum disease.
Gum Disease & Heart Disease
Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria associated with gum disease, ranks as one of the leading causes of infective endocarditis, which studies have shown to be responsible for roughly 30 percent of all total cases. Infective endocarditis is an infection that impacts the heart valves and endocardium (the inner layer of the heart). This condition occurs when an infection-causing bacteria enters the bloodstream and infects the heart. Some research has also found that the inflammation induced during periodontitis can also result in atherosclerosis (a blockage of arteries that transport blood).
Gum Disease & Cancer Risk
Research has found that severe gum disease can increase an individual’s risk for both gastric and oesophageal cancer. A study published in the journal Gut examined the records of over 98,000 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study, which ran for 22 years, and nearly 50,000 men who participated in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which was conducted over a period of 28 years.
Researchers assessed the participants’ oral health, lifestyle, and diet through the use of questionnaires. After a lengthy follow-up period, researchers determined that gum disease increased the risk of gastric and oesophageal cancer by 52 and 43 percent, respectively.
Gum Disease & Respiratory Disorders
The bacteria found in the mouths of participants with gum disease can be aspirated into the lungs which may lead to respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pneumonia. Research has also found that bacteria linked to the development of respiratory disease such as Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Mycoplasma pneumoniae can develop infective colonies located in the back of the throat.
Gum Disease & Rheumatoid Arthritis
In a recent article published by researchers at Johns Hopkins University’s Division of Rheumatology, Porphyromonas gingivalis, a bacteria known to cause chronic inflammation in gum tissue, can trigger the inflammatory autoimmune response commonly seen in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). A chronic autoimmune disease, RA causes severe inflammation in the joints, making them swollen and painful. In nearly all cases of rheumatoid arthritis, patients have gum disease. Of course, patients with arthritis also have a harder time properly brushing and flossing, which may contribute to the prevalence of gum disease.
Gum Disease & Stroke Risk
At this year’s International Stroke Conference, researchers from the American Stroke Association reported that gum disease is linked to a higher rate of strokes. Strokes can be caused due to either a blood vessel bursting or a blocked artery.
At Portland Periodontics, we specialize in treating gum disease and returning our patients’ gums back to health. As you can see, ignoring your gum health offers significant risk as untreated gum disease will increase your risk for a variety of serious long-term illnesses. Now is not the time to ignore your oral or overall health. If you have any questions about what health gums can mean to your overall health, please feel free to call us before your appointment at Portland Periodontics and we will happily answer your questions.